Majuli island residents’ twin battle with flood and elephant herd (Majuli District, India)


Naresh Mitra, The Times of India

Date Published

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GUWAHATI: In the world’s largest river island Majuli on Brahmaputra, residents are battling twin battles—with flood and 100-odd strong elephants.

For Himanta Das, a farmer at the Gejera Sapori in Majuli, he has to constantly keep watch on the movement of the jumbo herd as well as provide safety to his family from the swelling Brahmaputra.

“They (elephants) keep moving from one Sapori (sand island) to another in search of food. As a result we are always on the edge. In fact we are in the grip of flood and elephants. We have to look for safety both from the deluge and jumbos,” Himanta, father of two children, said.

“When elephants come to our place, we have to rush to a nearby embankment and shout to scare the jumbos away. Forest officials also help us in keep the herd at bay,” Himanta added.

Home to an estimated 160,000 people of different ethnic groups and the nerve centre of neo-Vaishnavite culture, Majulu is also a cluster 100-odd small islands called saporis. The elephants have been moving around 10 such Saporis on the northeastern part of Majuli, which is also a district and assembly constituency represented by chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal.

The herd reached the river island by swimming Brahmaputra from the forest in Dibrugarh district last month. And since then the herd has damaged houses and also killed a cow.

Many residents of these Saporis had lost their paddy cultivation to the elephant herd just ahead of the flood.

“Now flood has submerged the remaining crops on our farmland,” another resident of Gejera Sapori said.

“We have been constantly monitoring the herd’s movement. Now they are little far off from the human settlements. The herd is relishing on tall grasses and bamboos,” Majuli’s forest beat officer, Atul Das said.

Forty-nine villages in Majuli with an estimated population of 41,200 were affected in the current wave of flood. A total of 1,760 hectare cropland in Majuli went underwater. While many flood-hit villagers have taken shelter in makeshift camps erected on the elevated embankments, 385 affected people are lodged in three government relief shelters in the district.