Monsoons bring floods from Himalayas to the Bengal coast
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2008:
KOLKATA, VISAKHAPATAM–Increasingly violent monsoons
battered India yet again in August and September 2008, afflicting
millions of humans and animals in regions below the Himalayas from
northern Bihar to central Arunchal Pradesh, and as far south as
Srikakulum, halfway down the Bengal coast.
The Visakha SPCA in Visakhapatnam sent animal relief missions
from northern Andhra Pradesh, as it did after previous monsoon
floods and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
“We are in touch with our people at Srikakulum,” founder
Pradeep Kumar Nath e-mailed. “We are doing rescues wherever possible
and shifting [animals to safety] wherever necessary.”
The Visakha SPCA has itself been hit several times by
cyclones in recent years.
The monsoon flooding added to accumulations of water left by
the tail of Cyclone Nargis in May 2008. Cyclone Nargis killed more
than 146,000 people and 48 million animals in Myanmar, occasioning
the World Society for the Protection of Animals, International Fund
for Animal Welfare, and Wildlife Friends of Thailand to mount the
first international animal relief expedition to Myanmar ever, under
auspices of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Program.
India, across the Bay of Bengal, suffered relatively light
damage from Nargis, but bridges were washed out in parts of southern
coastal Orissa and northern coastal Andhra Pradesh, disrupting rail
traffic for more than a month, and leaving the region unusually
vulnerable to further catastrophe.
More than half of Orissa had experienced flooding by
Sept-ember 23. The Orissa state director of animal husbandry told
Nath that approximately 650,000 large domestic animals, 620,000
small domestic animals, and 212,000 poultry were in urgent need of
help. Twenty-eight veterinarians and 46 para-veterinarians had
vaccinated nearly 570,000 animals against diseases that might result
from the flooding, and had treated 8,317 animals for flood-related
illness and injury.
Some of the flooding was predictable. The Brahmaputra, the
largest river in northeastern India, again submerged Kaziranga
National Park, an almost annual occurrence. As in past years,
animals including hog deer, elephants, and highly endangered Asian
rhinoceroses fled Kaziranga to higher ground, requiring them to
cross National Highway 37, the busiest east/west route in the
region. At least six hog deer were road-killed, The Hindu reported.
Eight of the 1,855 rhinos who were believed to have lived in
Kaziranga were found dead, The Hindu added on September 11, 2008,
but noted that the toll was far below those of 1988 and 1998. The
1988 flooding killed 38 rhinos, 1,050 deer, 69 boar, three baby
elephants, and two tigers. The 1998 toll included a record 44
Media commentators were almost unanimous that flooding along
the Kosi River could have been predicted and prevended. The Kosi,
flowing from eastern Nepal across northern Bihar to the Ganges,
drains much of the central Himalayas, and is notorious for rapidly
inundating dams and levees with silt–or smashing them with rolling
boulders. Governments in both Nepal and India have for more than 60
years campaigned to harness the Kosi with bigger dams, while
ecologists are increasingly convinced that the best way to avoid
flooding is to let the Kosi run free.
The debate was revived by one of the first disasters of the
2008 monsoon season, an August 18 levee break near Kusaha, Nepal,
which killed at least 80 people and allowed the river to reclaim
three old courses, eventually displacing as many as 2.7 million
people and more than a million livestock.
“All Bihar nongovernmental organizations, honorary animal
welfare officers and members have been requested to participate in
the animal rescue operations and apply to the Animal Welfare Board of
India for financial assistance under our Natural Calamity Scheme,”
said AWBI secretary D. Rajasekar. “Interested NGOs from other states
are also requested to participate.”
A relief expedition mounted by the Wildlife Trust of India
and International Fund for Animal Welfare reported treating about
6,000 cattle, but noted that at least 24,000 were stranded in the
same vicinity, beyond reach. The Andhra Pradesh cow protection
organization Rastriya Ahimsa Manch sent a relief team to Madhepura
and Saharsa, with feed and medicines, unaware that Andra Pradesh
would also soon need help.
The World Society for the Protection of Animals “has been in
the field in Bihar for almost two weeks conducting assessment and
building a response platform,” e-mailed WSPA disaster response team
leader Tim Myers on September 10. “During this term the team has
also treated sick and injured animals at relief camps where
appropriate,” Myers added.
The WSPA team was initially directed by WSPA veterinarian
Ashish Sutar, and later by Animal Help Ahmedabad founder Rahul
Sehgal, sent by the Humane Society International division of the
Humane Society of the U.S