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The mystery of the disappearing island: Majuli, Assam


The Majuli island, Assam, India

Who would have thought that the beautiful North Eastern state of India, Assam, once housed the world’s biggest river island! It even held a place in the ‘Guinness World Book of Records’ for the same. However, over the last 100 years this river island of Majuli has steadily slipped from the spot from being numero uno in terms of its size as it has shrunk from its original size of over 1000 square kilometers to just about 500 square kilometers, a decrease in landmass by almost 50%! What could be the reason behind such a drastic decrease in area? Well, while some would naturally assume that it is most definitely a man-made cause, shockingly in this case it is the fury of mother nature itself. The rapidly moving waters of the Brahmaputra river are the main culprit behind the disappearing island of Majuli as they are responsible for the continuous soil erosion that has impacted the homes and lives of the people on the island as it continues decreasing in size.

One might wonder, what is so special about this island that has brought the issue of its disappearance in the spotlight. Well, the island of Majuli is so dear to the hearts of the people of Assam and the country that in the first cabinet meeting itself, post the election of the BJP led government, the island of Majuli was declared as India’s first river island district. This beautiful island holds many historic monasteries that represent the heart of Assamese culture, apart from this it is also a biodiversity hotspot as it is home to unique species of birds, plants and animals. It is currently on the brink of being declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as it represents the rich culture and heritage of the people of Assam. Hence, the priority is completely justifiable when it comes to the united front that has been laid by the Indian government to protect India’s first and once the world’s largest river island district.

The frequent flooding in Assam, which the entire country of India is astonishingly the reason behind the formation of this island. It was these floods that resulted in the change in course of the Brahmaputra river as well as certain frequent earthquakes that resulted in silt deposits which over time turned into a highly fertile island. And this fertility is the secret to its rich biodiversity.

Day in and day out efforts are being made by the government as well as local residents of the island to curb the erosion. Installation of geo-bags, raising of embankments and porcupines are activities that are carried out frequently to alter the fate of this island, however, they have not been working out in the best interest of the island. The floods that were responsible for the formation of this culturally rich island have now turned into a curse that is making life on the island impossible. While the deterioration of the island was initially caused purely due to the fury of nature, in recent times man-induced climate change is aiding in an increased rate of soil erosion as the frequency and power of the floods increase.

While the island of Majuli may completely cease to exist in the next 15-20 years as soil erosion drastically increases, the government and locals are trying hard to come up with solutions to meet the requirements of saving this cultural hotspot. While new ways of saving the island are constantly being researched, it is only mother nature that can seal the true fate of this beautiful island in Assam. So while you have the opportunity on a visit to Assam, do check out this scintillating island.


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