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Need permanent solution for Assam floods: PM

By G Vinayak in Guwahati
July 20, 2004 18:46 IST
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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday announced setting up a high-powered technical task force to look into the problem of annual floods in Assam and neighbouring states.

"It will suggest short-term and long-term measures, sources of funding and institutional arrangements for tackling this problem. It is expected to submit its report in six months," Singh said at a press conference at the Lokopriyo Gopinath International Airport in Guwahati on Tuesday.

A central team will shortly visit the flood-ravaged state to make an on-the-spot assessment and recommend the quantum and nature of assistance required.

As immediate relief, the Centre had already given Rs 46 crore from the Calamity Relief Fund (CRF) and Rs 55 crore from Calamity Relief Contingency Fund (CRCF). An additional amount of Rs 90 crore would be sanctioned in the next half of the 10th Five Year Plan for flood protection measures.

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Singh made these announcements after an aerial survey of the flood-hit areas and a review meeting with the state government officials led by Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi.

He promised to take up with China and Bhutan the issue of releasing excess waters that apparently causes floods in the plains of Assam.

"Floods in Assam have been an annual recurring feature for 50 years. We need to find an abiding solution to this problem, which will consist of upstream solutions in the catchment areas and downstream solutions in the form of flood control measures," the prime minister said.

Singh, a Rajya Sabha member from Assam, felt sad to visit the state for the first time as prime minister in such unpleasant circumstances.

Earlier, the state government submitted a detailed report to the prime minister listing the damage caused by the floods. According to the report, the floods have affected nearly 90 lakh people in 8,238 villages in 22 of the state's 24 districts.

Over 600 wild animals have drowned in various national parks and sanctuaries while over 10 lakh hectares of standing crop has been washed away. Over 300,000 houses have been completely washed away and over 16 lakh people are housed in makeshift camps.
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G Vinayak in Guwahati