Break drop of
Dhemaji, being a riverine district and having its typical
geographical and topographical location has been chronically affected by
flood, these histories of recurring flood being analyzed from different
aspects differently. The people inhabiting in this particular location of
the greater Ganges-Brahmaputra basin being wise onlooker of the natural
events have also their own perspective of analyzing the oncoming of flood,
these analyses are based on keen observation of the nature, some
traditional believes and thought, some religious and ritual customs and
some are age long peoples’ researches on omnipotence natural entities.
These observations and findings of the analyses have significant and
outbidding importance in the flood preparedness measures of different
communities. The study was carried with the objective to organize and
understand the various methods of early warning systems in this part of
the region of the country.
Anthropo-genetically Dhemaji has unique position in Assam due to
transitional metamorphosis of different ethnic groups and creeks. The
demographic characteristics and different socio-economic processes also
give the district a different status. The demographic identity of the
district is vividly significant for its schedule tribe and schedule caste
population. These populations have different mode of attachment to the
rivers and other natural resources. The prominent groups are Mishing,
Sonowal, Deori, hajong, Lalung, Kachari, Namasudra, Koibarta etc. Each of
these ethnic groups has their own cultural, social, structural and
religious features. Because of their diverse socio-economic and cultural
factors the impact of flood on different communities varies and thus the
vulnerability also have different dimensions, as some of the societal
ingredients make some communities to comply to their socio-cultural status
and some believes help them to cope with changing scenario of flood. All
these aspects have influenced the way the community accepts the flood and
the efforts they make to mitigate the flood devastation compel the native
communities to research on their traditional and customary flood warning
practices and strive for existence.
for the study
The study is carried out in ten categorically selected villages,
based on typical flood situation, demographic, anthropogenic, ethnic and
techno-physical criteria. The flood situation includes- nature of flood,
location and flood history etc.; the demographic criteria selected were
number of habitats, type of habitats, age of the habitats, population
could be covered, percentage of the population compared to their total
population of the group in the district etc.; the anthropogenic criteria
covered-caste, relation of the community with the river/floods, living
pattern, food habit, social structures, role of women in the family as
well in the society, general livelihood practices etc.; the ethnic
criteria considered were the- customary rules and practices of the
communities, traditional expertise, inter-relation with other communities
etc.; and the techno-physical criteria selected were- accessibility and
communication facilities, status of vulnerability, geographical location
etc. The study areas then located and mapped out and different sets of
commonalities and modalities thus being identified and classified to carry
out the study. The 10 locations thus determined are as follows-
Simen chapori- Major bari ghat
Simenmukh- Harinathpur and Kashinathpur Mishing
Muktiyar- Ajarbari and Taye gaon
The study emphasized on gathering as much as analogous information from
the people through focus group discussion, the programme staff present in
the discussion as facilitator and neutral observer. The key points of the
discussion noted and specific clarification collected from selective
persons of the village while necessary.
Identification of the group
A prior decision was taken to fix up the composition of the group
to extract the maximum information from the discussion and to incorporate
a collective view from every fraction of the population- a rationalized
configuration is designed including- active members of Duryug Samitees (
village disaster management committee) where it exists or any village
committee, PRI representatives, SHG members, government employee, local
school teacher, business man, village head man, religious leader, ICDS
worker, representative from local organization etc. To include
representation from every age group thrust was given to select
A request letter was intimated in advance to the village head man/
president or secretary of Duryug Samitee referring the purpose and
schedule date and time of the meeting along with proposed selection
criteria of the representatives to be present in the meeting and size of
the group was requested to fix to be 20-30 members.
The target group as per design and identified was a mixed group
and some instances RVC’s intervention in some localities was infrequent.
So prior to commencement of the discussion people from RVC had to explain
in detail of the concept of early warning for flood and other disasters
and the present trend of early warning, role of community based disaster
preparedness measures, the objectives of the present study, the aspects of
the group discussion and the follow up trend of the study.
With this introductory session the modality of the discussion again
discussed with the group and one moderator for the discussion was selected
from the gathering with the consent of the people. The discussion then
became an impromptu session, the participants forwarded their views how
they determine the adversity of a forthcoming natural event, including all
aspects- ritual, religious, customary, traditional believes and practices,
early warning provision from the government and local media also focused
on the effectiveness of these with evidences. To affix the timeframe RVC
participants sometimes steer the discussion for proper orientation. The
views then noted down and further clarification being made in between. The
points thus noted down again shared with the group at the conclusion.
observations in 10 focus group discussions
believes/observations are common in almost all communities
believes/observations can be stated as mere coincidences, no any
scientific explanation is possible for such believes
believes/observations are suggestions rather than firm believes
believes/observations are natural enigma
observations need further study for scientific approval
believes/observations have lost their authenticities due to rapid climatic
Since the study had limited scope to go further detail analyses of these
outcomes emerged during the entire process and this is probably the first
study of this type so more study and analyses have to be carried out to
systematize the findings.
List of the
traditional believes and observations as flood EW
Observations based on animal psychology
In the morning of the very last day Assamese month Powsh (Mid of
January) i.e. the eve of Magh bihu, if the cattle are found to stay standing
under their shed this indicates a forthcoming flood.
If cow, goat, buffalo, pig become very unsteady and make unusual moos
and grunts in their shed it indicates a forthcoming disaster particularly a
flood or earthquake.
If the cattle behave abnormally and furiously when they are brought
for bath during the morning of Garu Bihu it is believed that the flood is
When insects’ like-locust, grasshopper etc. come out from their hide
and fly randomly and enter house, this situation suggests a sudden change in
the weather condition, more occasionally a flood.
Ants shift their shelter to higher places with their eggs and food
stuff; it indicates a definite forthcoming flood.
Mosquitoes behave abnormally, suddenly they come out from the forest
or place of hide in huge numbers at any time of the day and attack their
prey violently, and this indicates a sudden flood.
When fox howls irritably at higher place it indicates a forthcoming
prolong drier season and when it howls from a low lying location it
indicates a probability of high flood.
Doves cry monotonously before a forthcoming flood.
A mysterious bird locally known as Mëlong cries before a devastating
A bird having local name Chatak cries mournfully before flood.
monotonous high pitch sound of an insect locally called as Jilley indicates
sign of forthcoming fair weather.
A drastic change in weather is indicated by random fly and suicidal
action of full grown termite.
Dog bathes frequently before a unseen forthcoming flood.
A bird locally known as Kutum cries and sways in the sky indicating a
forthcoming devastating flood.
Toads and frogs make continuous sounds before torrential rain and
Observation of the nature:
If the moon inclines towards south it implies a forthcoming
If the cloud gathers in the south-west direction it indicates a
probable storm, in south-east direction indicates a rain and flood and in
north-west indicates normal rain.
A species of grass locally know as Torapat when it new buds come out
with tints of silt, it indicates a devastating flood.
If the moon has red glow it indicates forthcoming torrential rainfall
within three days.
When rain starts in
Wednesday-Thursday- It indicates a torrential rain fall in next 22
Saturday- Indicates continuous rain in next three consecutive days.
Monday-Indicates raining in next 8 consecutive days.
Tuesday-Rain will continue for few days
Sunday-Rain will occur for longer duration
Rainbow: - When rainbow extends from north-east to south-west and if
the full half is clearly visible then indicates a devastating flood ahead.
Thunderbolt: - When thunderbolt occurs in north it indicates heavy
rainfall and flood and occurrence of thunderbolt in the south indicates a
fair weather ahead. South-west thunderbolt indicates a devastating storm,
south-east indicates a prolong rain and possible flood and north-west
indicates normal rain.
Massive bamboo flowering before the summer season indicates
occurrence of devastating flood.
Wind: - Southwest direction of wind a strong storm followed by heavy
Cloud: - When cloud floats from northeast towards southwest it
indicates a forthcoming flood.
When Simul blooms flower at n earlier date the normal flowering
period, it indicates a forthcoming flood
If mango trees bear more flower than the flowers of Jackfruits it
indicates more rain and flood.
People have their own calculation that if it rains continuously for
three to four days in the adjacent Arunachal hills water will reach the low
lying areas within 6 to 10 hours.
Religious and ritual believes:-
The priest of the Mishing community forecast the nature of the
weather for the forthcoming days from their ritual calculations based on the
signs on in the heart of the pig sacrificed in Dubur Puja.
Some priest forecast weather based on dreams.
believe if Saturn becomes the king of water then that year flood comes in
many waves but the floods are of short duration and less devastative.
Most of the villages covered under this study don’t have a traditional
organized flood early warning system, only the following cases have been
identified which could be recognized as best practices among the
People of Muktiyar Taye gaon used to alarm people at downstream
through the personnel communication. People flying through the village
(which has been recognized as one of the vulnerable point in the
Brahmaputra dyke) get information on the trend of the river flow and
possible consequences. In some inevitable cases they use mike set to
inform people at downstream.
In Arne Chapori village (where the Brahmaputra dyke breached in
1998) use to warn people by shouting and beating drum and bronze shield
but this practice becomes obsolete as it loses its significance.
Some other emerging cross cutting
People of Junghali office village feel that natural indicators gradually
loss its importance due to rapid change in the climatic condition also
because of excessive human intervention along the different reaches of the
rivers and thus though these natural indicators once play important role
in forecasting the weather condition can not serve the purpose.
People of Tirachi Basti village say that flood situation becomes more
devastative and unpredictable not only because of the natural degradation
but also due to unplanned human activities, these activities-such as
construction of roads without proper drainage and drainage constriction
due to improper designs of bridge and river routing, etc. contribute a lot
in aggravating the flood situation.
In some remote villages of Dhemaji district, where literally
no communication system exists here radio plays an important role, but
people feel that the flood forecasting messages broadcasted by local AIR
station are more general and have little information for these areas, to
make the information more vivid and informative sequential information of
the river situation at upstream with adequate information of the embankment
should be included.
Adequate man power should be deployed round the clock for the
surveillance and reporting on the embankment condition during normal flood
season and this information should be updated through radio.
The PRI members should have the latest flood and embankment
condition report so that people could access this information easily.
Special flood news bulletins should be broadcasted by the
local radio station twice daily particularly in local languages-such as in
Mishing, hazong, Deori etc.
Local thana and police station should take initiative to
inform people on big flesh floods like flood in 2000 and 2004.
Rural Volunteers Centre
Ph:- 03753-246306, 246436