OM ASTHA RAI
One recent sunny afternoon, Krishna Maya Sharma, 42, was hoeing her crop field soaked in winter rain which lashed most parts of north India just a day before. “I used to plant paddy here,” says she, showing her land where the upper layer of soil looks covered with sand. “Now, I can grow just taro roots.”
In 2012, when a flood in the Brahmaputra River, seen as the most devastating since 2004, caused havoc in the north Indian state of Assam, Krishna Maya lost much of her fortune. “I was about to harvest my crops,” she says. “But the flood damaged everything.”
Not only did the flood damage Krishna Maya´s crop but also trigged a chain of effects, rendering her family poorer. When the flood retreated, her land was covered with such a thick layer of sand that she is still unable to grow paddy there. “After the flood, I tried to plant crops but nothing grew,” she says.
Krishna Maya´s family owned about 11 bighas of fertile land before the flood. “The land is still there but it’s just sand. Only a small plot of land is left for growing taro roots,” she says.
The flood, which reportedly killed at least 125 people and displaced thousands of families in Assam and Bangladesh, also damaged a vast area of grassland, adding to difficulty in collecting fodder. With no green pasture to graze on, all her five cattle died.
The severest aftereffect of the flood turned out to be the deaths of two oxen, which her husband, Punya Prasad Sharma, would use to plow the land. “After our oxen died, my husband couldn’t plow the land and now he works as a manual worker at a nearby construction site,” she explains.
Today, even for cultivating whatever land is left, Krishna Maya needs to purchase chemical fertilizers. Earlier, she used to grow plants by using compost fertilizers – mostly made up of cow dung. “As we have no cattle now, we can’t make compost fertilizers,” she says.
Krishna Maya´s is not a unique tale. In Lawpani, a nondescript village in Tinsukia District of Assam, which is mostly inhabited by people of Nepali origin, everyone has similar tales to tell.
Like Krishna Maya, most of people in Laowani, which now has more than 150 households of Nepali origin, are affected by floods, followed by inundation and erosion, every year. They find it very difficult to save their crops and livestock from floods in monsoon months.
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