Assam, Heaven + Hell

Publish date 18-05-2024

by Luca Periotto

The world around love
it is the enduring world of bliss

Ganesh Gogoi, Svapnabhanga (Broken Dream)

Anyone who has read Salgari will probably know that Yanez de Gomera,
a Portuguese corsair who was a close friend of Sandokan, in one of the final stories - The Brahmin of Assam - is the protagonist who wears the noble clothes of a rajah, respected and adventurous, who wisely governs an exotic and fertile valley of wonders, which extends in the extreme geographical north-east of India, at the foot of the Himalayas.

What Salgari, however, despite all his gift of imagination and extraordinary power of imagination, could not even foresee concerns the current climate revolution which we are all helplessly witnessing. A situation that could not spare Assam, a place known for being the natural basin that collects, along the course of the Brahmaputra river, the tumultuous waters that are melting at the speed of light from the glaciers, considered only a handful of time ago as snow “perennial”, and which add up to another load of a thousand monsoons.
The violent torrential rains that always cause floods during the summer, from May to September, have never been so epic and furious as in the last three years.

India is the world's largest producer of tea, and around 500 million kg of tea is produced in Assam alone! The economy of a state with 35 million inhabitants based entirely on agriculture is now severely damaged: above all, the prized black tea plantations - endemic in that region, where over 80% of the workforce employed in fields is almost entirely female.

The upheaval of the tropical climate, following the growing volatility of precipitation on an annual basis, and a growing and significant increase in average temperatures have now brought not only the entire ecosystem to its knees, but also the survival of the population. Like during the 2023 flood in which, at dawn on a dark and rainy July, 64 thousand people saw their homes and futures taken away by a violence of the waters that was impossible to predict. Here, then, are all the ingredients for that "perfect storm" which - hopefully - will not cause yet another mass exodus.

The Climate Vulnerability Index (2021) classifies Assam as the most climate vulnerable Indian state.
Among the factors of this extreme vulnerability, the main ones are the presence of the extensive Brahmaputra and Barak river basins, the rapid decrease in forest cover and the overall hydrogeological fragility of north-eastern India.

photos and texts by Luca Periotto
NP April 2024

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