Posted by Ngurang Reena, District Papum Pare, Arunachal Pradesh
Everyone in my village knew that a tragedy was awaiting but no one knew that it would be catastrophic. Due to fragile flood embankments and flood walls, the river water ravaged the village. An effective flood control measure could have prevented many from losing their homes, livelihood and land.
On August 14th, around 5.30 in the morning, the residents of my village woke up to the wrath of Mother Nature. The Kimin river had turned into a ferocious torrent and we feared for our lives and our lands. For indigenous people, our agricultural land and our livestock are an intrinsic mark of our livelihood and tribal identity.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, my village Kimin, in the district Papum Pare of Arunachal Pradesh is enduring adversities – floods and landslides. There has been large-scale damage. The people of my village, including my family, are trying to overcome this loss and trauma.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, some of them have been rendered homeless, and many, have lost their means of livelihood; i.e. their fish ponds, paddy fields, kitchen garden, live stocks such as Mithun (a socio-culturally significant domestic bovine), pigs and others. The calamity has completely damaged the flood protection-retaining walls, including the one near my house, destroying my mother’s garden. It has also washed away a hanging bridge. Meanwhile, near the capital in Naharlagun, the river water has devoured many houses and vehicles. It’s still raining but, thankfully, the river looks calm now.
My Mother’s Garden and the Community’s Loss
My mother is a farmer and raises livestock such as pigs and chicken, just like many from her generation. Her garden has been the source of supply for vegetables and meat for the village during the lockdown period; sharing our local produce with the community is a fundamental part of our culture. And on the morning of 14th, her garden was under water too. By 6 am, everyone in my neighbourhood was awake. I heard screams and saw them packing their belongings. My mother did the same! We live just a few metres away from the river, we thought we were going to lose everything.
Enduring Perils of the Monsoon rains
It’s an annual tragedy for the people of Arunachal Pradesh and my village. Monsoon every year brings fear and insecurities for the villagers. There was a big playground near my mother’s garden not so long ago, and an excess land beyond that, where three of our neighbours resided. They had enough land of their own where they raised their own livestock. As kids, we all had a good time, playing cricket, football and all sorts of sports. But gradually, we all lost a little every year. All the three neighbours lost their homes, livelihood, and they had to relocate. My village has witnessed massive catastrophe losses in the last two decades.
Like every year, this monsoon has brought misery to the villagers again. The incessant rain has wreaked havoc in the state; soil erosion, uprooted trees and blocked highways. There is only erratic power supply and the water supply too has also been severed in my area. Apart from flooding, recently, mudslides have also killed a few people in the state. And it is reported that a part of the only road connecting the Rebo-Perging Circle Office HQ and other villages with the Siang District HQ of Boleng has been washed away in the recent landslide.
COVID-19 and the Problems of Movement and Supply
The difficulties have been almost overwhelming during this lockdown period for the villagers here. COVID-19 positive cases have been on the rise globally, even in Arunachal and in such circumstances, physical distancing is inconceivable.
As Kimin lies in the Assam border, movement and supply of goods and services for the people of this town has been extremely difficult to undertake. Instead of making the one hour journey from here to the capital side, in case of medical and other emergencies, the lockdown has compelled us to take the long way from Hoj-Potin. It takes three to four hours on this road to reach the capital. The road is often in bad condition during this season. The blocking of the national highway has cut off the village from both ends and has also negatively affected the power and water supply.
Building Resilience During the Catastrophe
Still, it is wonderful to see how resilient our community is in the wake of the pandemic outbreak and the recent flood disaster; the community is highly spirited and positive despite this tragedy. When tragedies strike every year, perhaps being resilient is the only key to our happiness and well-being.
Ngurang Reena is pursuing her PhD on International Relations from JNU, New Delhi. She is currently locked down in her village in Arunachal Pradesh due to the pandemic.
Cover Image: Author
Story Images: Author
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