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Nature was kind enough while blessing Assam with various natural resources. The total deposit of various natural resources indicates that Assam is quite rich in this respect. Natural resources in Assam includes mineral resources, power resources and forest resources.

Mineral Resources

Minerals are the pre-requisite to industrial progress as they provide the raw materials to heavy industries, engineering, chemical and other industries, Assam, being a leading state of the north-eastern region of India, is well endowed with some of the important mineral resources. But mineral resources of the State have not yet been completely assessed. Following are the main mineral resources available in Assam.

Coal : Coal is an important mineral product in Assam. Coal provides fuel to households and industries in Assam along with other by-products. Coalfields in Assam are situated at Makum, Margherita, Nazira, Lankadaman, Jaipur, Ledo, Namdum etc. Total coal reserves (both proved and indicated inferred sources) of Assam is 295.2 million tonnes as per GSI assessment as on January 1,1994. Again the total coal reserves of some of the main coal fields in Assam are estimated to be 235.6 million tonnes for Makum, 30.0 million tonnes for Dilli-joypura, 2.5 million tonnes for Janji-Disai (Nazira) and 0.6 million tonnes for Koliajan in Karbi Anglong district. Total production of coal in Assam, which was 5.22 lakh tonnes in 1970, gradually increased to 5.82 lakh tonnes in 1975 and then to 6.49 lakh tonnes in 1978. In 1979-80, the production of coal in Assam came down to 5.84 lakh tonnes and then increased to 6.51 lakh tonnes in 1981. In 1989, total production of coal in Assam has increased to 8.4 lakh tonnes and then to 9.82 lakh tonnes and 12.92 lakh tonnes in March 1991 and 1994 respectively. In 1994, total production of coal in Assam constituted 0.49 per cent of the total coal production of the country as a whole.

Crude Oil : Petroleum (Crude) is the most important mineral product of Assam. Total production of petroleum crude in Assam accounts for nearly 50 per cent of country’s total petroleum output till 1970. The amount of production of petroleum (Crude) in Assam varied marginally between 44.7 lakh tonnes in 1977, 40.8 lakh tonnes 1978 and 44.5 lakh tonnes during 1979-80 as against 86.9 lakh tonnes in 1977 for all India. Total production of petroleum then fell down to 10.6 lakh tonnes in 1980 and then again increased to 51.5 lakh tonnes in 1986. Total production of petroleum crude in Assam further rose to 54.09 lakh tonnes in 1989 and then it slowly declined to 48.61 lakh tonnes in 1994. In 1994-95, Assam produced about 15.1 per cent of total petroleum crude (32.24 million tonnes) produced in India. Total reserve of crude oil at Sibsagar and Dibrugarh area is estimated to be 70.46 million tonnes. Oil deposits in Assam are found in Naharkatiya, Moran, Hugrizan, Rudrasagar, Galeky, Lakwa, Nazira, Teok etc. The first oil refinery in Assam was established at Digboi and then two other refineries were established at Guwahati and Bongaigaon. The main products of these refineries are petrol, high-speed diesel, Kerosene, Carbon, Wax, Naphtha, petro-chemicals etc. In 1981, total production of these three refineries in Assam was 15.7 lakh tonnes and then it increased to 25.3 lakh tonnes in 1989. In the mean time, the construction works of the 4th refinery had already atarted in Numuligarh of Golaghat District.

Natural Gas : Assam is well blessed by nature in respect of natural gas. Total reserve of natural gas in Assam are estimated to be 23,000 million cubic metres. This is available at Naharkatiya and Moran area. The quantity of natural gas utilised in Assam, however, increased from 848 million cubic metres in 1976 to 942 million cubic metres in 1979. In 1980, there was an abrupt fall in its utilisation to only 455 million cubic metres and then its utilization increased to 869 million metres in 1981. Total amount of natural gas utilized in India was 1,545 million cubic metres and thus Assam’s utilization of natural gas accounts for 59.8 per cent of the total utilisation in the country. Namrup Fertilizer plant and Namrup Gas Thermal Power Project are the main two projects using natural gas in Assam.

Moreover, in recent years, total amount of natural gas utilized in Assam has increased to 1030 million cubic metres in 1992 and then declined to 893 million cubic metres in 1994. But in India total production of natural gas in 1990-91 was 18.0 billion cubic metres. In the various Oil fields of Assam run by Oil India about 3.5 to 4 million sq. metres of natural gas are being emissioned daily. Out of which only 1.5 million sq. metres of natural gas are being utilised in the various industries of Assam and the remaining portion of natural gas are being flared up daily, leading to a huge loss of scarce resources. Assam Gas Company is also supplying natural gas to various tea gardens of Assam. Steps have also been taken to install one fertilizer factory at Mezeva near Nazira when natural gas available in the Sibsagar district will be commercially utilised. In BRPL of Bongaigaon, a good amount of natural gas is also being utilised. Moreover, recently steps have been taken to start a gas Cracker Project in Assam for suitable utilisation of huge amount of natural gas in the state. Moreover, the Assam Gas Based Power Project (AGBPP) at Kathalguri is all set to generate 100 MW of power in March, 1995 and will have a total installed capacity of 291 MW of electricity from six gas and three waste heat steam turbines.

Lime Stone : Lime Stone is also an important mineral product of Assam. It is used as an important raw-material for the production of Cement. Lime stone mines in Assam are available at Garampani and Koliajan in the district of Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills. Total reserves of limestone in Garampani and Koliajan area are estimated to be 78 million tonnes and 81 million tonnes respectively. Limestone in Assam is of cement grade. Koliajan reserves of limestone is being mined by Cement Corporation of India for Bokajan Cement Factory. Total production of limestone in Assam has been increased from 88 thousand tonnes in 1975-76 to 143 thousand tonnes in 1978 and then 289 thousand tonnes in 1979-80 and then followed by 269 thousand tonnes in 1981.

Again in 1984 total production of limestone in Assam has declined to 209 thousand tonnes and then it increased to 297 thousand tonnes in 1990 and then again gradually increased to 338 thousand  tonnes in 1994. Recently, steps have been taken for the establishment of some mini cement plant in Assam for the increasing use of its limestone reserves. Accordingly, the Karbi Anglong Chemicals Ltd. is going to establish a 100TPD mini Cement plant in the village of Amlokhi in Diphu.

Probable reserves of other minerals : Some other mineral resources are also located in Assam, which include Fire Clay, Kaoline, Iron Ore, Fullers Earth, Feldspar. Fire Clay is  available in Selvetta, Koliajan and Namdeng (Ledo) areas of Assam and their probable reserves are 2.10 million tonnes. Kaoline is avilable at Selvetta and Jaijuri area and its reserves are estimated to be 0.58 million tonnes. Iron ore is also found in Assam in the Chandardings, Lengupara and Kumari area of Goalpara district and also in Mahim area of Kamrup district and its probable reserves are estimated to be 17.6 million tonnes. Average content of iron ore in Assam varies between 40.12% to 46.45%. Both Fullers Earth and Feldspur are available at Kamrup district of Assam and its reserves are estimated to be 17.0 million tonnes and 0.02 million tonnes respectively.

Moreover, as per the exploration survey conducted by the Assam Mineral Development Corporation (AMDC) during 1994-95, the whole Gaurinagar Hillock, situated within the four walls of Nalbari Reserved Forest in Goalpara district is full of rocks mainly in abundance with the granites (dolorites). The granite is a very hard rock composed of feldspar, quartz and mica which is used as building materials and the exploration of the Gaurnagar granaite is the best of its kind with  black colour granites.

Thus, it is found that Assam is quite rich with its deposit of some of the basic mineral resources which will provide ample scope for industrialization through fuller utilization of these vast mineral resources.

Forest Resources :

Assam has its rich potential for the development of forest. The upper Brahamaputra Valley along with two hill districts is covered by ever green forests and the lower Brahamputra valley is covered by tropical decidious forests. Total area covered by forests in Assam is 30,807 sq.kms. (1991-92) which is 39.2 percent of the total geograpical area of the State. But reserved forest area covers 22 percent of the total geographical area of the state. National forest policy prescribed national minimum of 33.3 per cent under the productive forest and Assam’s percentage of forest area is lower in this respect.

The forests of Assam can be classified under certain broad classes, namely, evergreen, semi-evergreen, tropical evergreen, mixed deciduous, sal forest, riverine forest and moist and dry savannah. The climate in Assam facilitate the growth and regeneration of plant species with a great diversion from evergreen to dry savannah type. Reserved forests in Assam are divided into six circles and 25 divisions and the areas under wildlife are divided into eight divisions including state zoo. Under the principal chief conservator of forests, the department of forest,Assam, engaged more than 11,000 man power to look after this large area under forest cover. For smooth functioning, the department of forest is divided into two group-(a) general forestry and(b) social forestry. Tribal sub-plan and scheduled castes components are also included into the social forestry division.

In 1992-93, out of the total forest area of 30,807 sq.kms., reserved forests covered 17,567 sq.kms., forests under District Councils covered 3589 sq. kms. and unclassifed forest covered 5731 sq.kms. (including other community forests) Thus 57.02 per cent of the total forest area is covered by reserved forest, 12.72 per cent is covered by the proposed reserved forest area, 11.64 per cent is covered by forest under district council and the rest 18.6 per cent is covered by unclassifed forests. Among all he district of the state, Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills possess highest concentration of forests in the state and its area constitute 40.2 per cent of the total forest area of the state.

At the end of 1994-95, total forest area in Assam was 21.86 lakh hectares(excluding unclassed state forest), out of which reserved forest covered 14.9 lakh hectares and the proposed reserve forest area covered 3.93 lakh hectares. Thus out of total forest area of Assam, reserved forest covered 81.88 percent and the renmaining 18.12 percent is covered by the proposed reserved forest area.

Due to rapid urbanisation process and consequent factors degradation of forest is also occuring which is estimated (1991-92) at 2352.77 sq. kms. and classified as forest waste land.

To facilitate the green movement, the state forest department also distributes various seedlings of economically important plant species to the general public raised in the social forestry nursery free of cost. During 1991-92 such seedlings amounted to 18,60,569 in number.

At present a total of 611 mills and factories, including paper, match and plywood factories are running, depending upon the forest products in the state.

In the plain districts of Assam, State Forest Department manages the forest while in the hill districts, districts council manages it.

Total out turn from forest in Assam

Output from forest in Assam is composed of timber, fuel wood and some minor forest products, viz., bamboo, cane etc. Total out turn of timber in thousand cubic metres, were 447 in 1973-74,557 in 1974-75, 480 in 1977-78 and 351 in 1978-79 which revealed an increasing trend in the beginning and then followed by a declining trend. Total output of timber in rough poles was 607 thousand running metres. Total production of fuel from forests in Assam, in thousand stack cubic metres, were 270 in 1973-74, 136 in 1974-75, 289 in 1976-77 and 154 in 1978-79. The value of minor forest products which includes bamboos and cane, was Rs.72 lakhs in 1970-71 and then increased to Rs. 143 lakhs in 1976-77.

In recent years, total out-turn of timber and fuel-wood from forests in Assam has declined considerably in recent years. Total out-turn of industrial timber from forests in Assam which was 78.6 thousand cubic metres in 1988-89, gradually declined to 6.91 thousand cubic metres in 1989-90 and then it again slightly increased to 76.8 thousand cubic metres in 1993-94. Total out-turn of fuel-wood in Assam which was only 30.06 thousand stack cubic metre in 1988-89 gradually increased to 44.2 thousand stack cubic metre in 1993-94.

The net product from forestry and logging at current prices was estimated at Rs.27.4 crores in 1976-77 as against Rs.22.8 crores in 1975-76.

Again net product at current prices from forestry and logging has increased from 34.7 crores in 1980-81 to Rs. 156.9 crores 1993-94. Again, the net product from forestry and logging at constant (1980-81) prices declined from Rs.34.7 crores (1.5 per cent of SDP) in 1980-81 to Rs.34.4 crores (0.7 per cent of SDP) in 1993-94.

Revenue receipts from forests in Assam

Forest in Assam has contributed only Rs.57 lakh in 1950-51 to the revenue of Assam Government and its contributtion rose to Rs. 966 lakh in 1977-78, Rs. 1,110 lakh in 1978-79, Rs. 1,221 lakh in 1980-81 and finally to Rs. 16.9 crores in 1994-95. The forest revenue, which was only Rs. 70 lakh during the First Plan period gradually increased to Rs. 1,956 lakh during the Fourth Plan period. This shows a significant rise in the forest revenue in absolute terms in the state. Forest revenue as in percentage of total revenue of Assam was only 0.93 per cent during the First Plan and then gradually increased to 4.09 per cent and 4.4 per cent during the Second Plan and the Third Plan respectively and then it fell down the 3.5 per cent and 3.4 per cent during the Ad-hoc plans and the Fourth Plan period. In recent years, the share of the forestry sector in the State’s net domestic product is not of much significance as it barely constitute 1 per cent of the total SDP.

Problem of Deforestation or Degradation of Forest in Assam-Afforestation and Tree planning Activities

In Assam, the problem of deforestation or degradation of forest is quite acute. Total area under forests has been gradually declining in Assam due to its total mismanagement. Due to rapid, urbanisation process and consequent factors, degradation of forest is also occuring which is estimated (1991-92) at 2352.77 sq.kms and classified as forest waste land. The factors which are largely responsible for large-scale deforestation include-growing demand for raw materials for forest-based industries and increasing demand for state revenue from forest. From the very begining state Governments were very much interested to collect a big volume of revenue by selling timber and other forest produce. Moreover, forest bureaucracy allowed illegal felling of trees with the sole intention to get illegal gratification. Besides, indiscriminate cutting of trees standing in the forest adjacent to the village by the villagers is also responsible for massive deforestation in the country. Again a good number of landless poor are regularly cutting trees and setting firewood for earning their livelihood. In this way, the pace of deforestation has been intensified since independence.

As the forest management’s prescribed yield fell for short of the requirement, thus political pressure, muscle flattening, money power, political patronage played their roles to meet the requirement. The forest officers who tried to resist and refuse were humiliated, shifted, by-passed and ignored. Those who tried to compromise and finally obliged, smooth sailed at the crest of developing waves.

Assam is also having a good number of forest based industries. In 1995, Assam was having 565 saw mills, 76 plywood and Veneer mills, 3 paper mills, 1 match factory, 1 match splint factory, 3 timber treating plants, 1000 odd brick kilns, tile factories potteries, bakeries, cane, bamboo industries besides developments in the field of industry, agriculture, surface and air transport and communications, power, energy, industrial plantation, trade and commerce. Moreover, with the increase in the size of population, ethnic movements are also in the rise with the rise of unemployment, shelter, health, poverty and shortage of food. In order to sustain all these above mentioned activities and also to meet the requirements of different forest based industries, the forest cover in the state is gradually shrinking and the crop density is gradually being thinned. The per capita forest area in the state has declined considerably and stood at 0.13 hectare in recent years. As per the current Forests Survey of India (FSI), total forest area under encroachments is 2477 sq. kms. Total area of reserved forests partially wiped out of forests coveris estimated at 1483.38 sq.kms. Reserved forests partially wiped out of forests cover  in the State is also estimated at 1260.34 sq.kms.

The estimated demands of forest produce to sustain the current estimated requirements (minimun requirement) of the state include saw logs 0.3 m mt., plywood logs 0.092 m mt., timber 0.0401 mmt, matchwood logs 0.008 mmt., fuelwood 3.0 mmt. and bamboo for pulp 13.5 m mt. A sample survey of outside supply of forest produce from North Eastern states showed that 3780 trucks load of forest produce were transported from the region within 28 days and of these, 438 truck loads were carried from Assam. These statistics shows the extent of large scale deforestation going on in Assam alongwith the other North-eastern states.

The forest management in Assam has become the target of frontal attack for quite sometime. Large scale deforestation, rapid disappearence of forest cover, diminishing wild life population, scarcity of commercial timber, acute shortage of fuelwood, recurrence of flood, environmental disaster etc. are all attributing to the mismanagement of forest resources in the state.

The forest is a living organism and like other organism it needs proper and adequate care and congenial conditions for growth. The forest is a slowly growing organism and thus requires tender and adequate treatment. The ill treatment that have been meted out to the forest in Assam, subverting the forest management for the last two decades, have denuded the forest cover in the state at a large scale. As per the recent Forest Survey of India report, 50 per cent of the forest cover is still dense and more than 25 per cent of the cover is having below 40 percent density and only 447 sq.kms of area has been transformed into scrub or no forest cover, even after such onslaught on forests. In spite of all odds, the present situation demands a strict adherence to the forest management policy. Managing a living organism is quite difficult. Without having any fencing, the forests are open to grazing, pilferage, poaching and biotic interference. All these have made the forest management a difficult task, particularly in the days of lawlessness.

This sort of continuous large scale deforestation is directly responsible for soil erosion, greater frequency and intensity of floods, continuous heavy siltation of costly dams and river banks, change in climate conditions and ecological imbalance. Moreover, deforestation has resulted in huge sufferings to the landless cultivators and marginal farmers in the form of loss of fuelwood and fodder for their cattle. This in turn is responsible for loss of valuable organic manure as cow dung which is now-a-days largely being used as fuel. Thus deforestation has created both ecological and socio-economic problems in the state.

In the mean time, though the states and forest department tried to check deforestation but they become sucessful only to protect the forests from poor people and miserably failed to protect forests from the clutches of industries and illegal timber traders. Even the social forestry programme and other schemes as incorporated in our forest policy has miserably failed to check deforestation which is progressing on a large scale. Thus under this present situation proper steps must be taken for the conservation and development of forest resources in the state.

Afforestation and Tree Planting Activities :

Considering the gravity of the problem of large scale deforestation or denudation of forest in the state, both the central as well as the State Government have undertaken a long standing strategy of afforestation and tree planting throughout the state under its various schemes. As per this programme of afforestation and tree planting, the Assam forests had created 2906.23 sq.kms of plantation, i.e. 1311.92 sq. kms of area under social forestry and 1594.31 sq. social forestry had planted 37.98 million seedlings, distributed 7.38 lakh fodder plants, 6.27 lakh fruit plants and 4.94 lakh Ornamental plants. In 1994-95, about 5626 hecares of land were brought under social forestry and about 140.7 lakh seedlings were planted.

Although massive steps have been taken by the government agencies in this direction, but it needs to be mentioned here that a big chunk of such afforestation and tree panting activities has gone into waste due to lack of its proper maintenance. Under such a situation, various State Government agencies should take up these schemes and afforestation activities with utmost sincerity and should take necessary steps for continuous maintenance of those areas at least in the initial stages.

In May, 1996, the Assam Government  imposed a total ban on felling of trees in a bid to save its forest from environmental degradation. Accordingly, no new permit would be issued to cut down trees in any forest reserve. In order to check the deforestation activities, the Forest Department has been asked to provide a detailed report of destruction of forest resource from all the reserve forests of Assam and to ascertain the involvement of any officials in it. Meanwhile a vigilance cell, headed by the Chief Conservator of Forest (CCF), had been formed to check illegal activities like destruction of forests. This is, no doubt, a welcome step.

Finally, people in general, should realise the potent dangers of deforestation and should take active interest and co-operation in the sucessful implementation of these afforestation and free planting schemes as a continuous process so as to increase green coverage of the state for the betterment of the life of their future generations.

Allocation of Fund, Target and Achievements in respect of Development of Forestry under the Plans in Assam

The Five Year Plans in Assam has been allocating a good amount of fund regularly for the development of forest in Assam. The following table shows the allocation of funds under various Five Year Plans and their achievements.

Table No. 3.1

Allocation of Funds and area covered under Plans in Forestry


Amount of Fund allocated (Rs. in lakh)

Area Covered (in hectares)


First Plan

Second Plan

Third Plan

Fourth Plan

Fifth Plan

Sixth Plan

Seventh Plan

Eighth Plan


















Source : Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, Assam, Guwahati-8

The table (No. 3.1) reveals that the State Government under its various plans has been allocating a good amount of fund for the development of forestry. These amounts of fund varied from Rs. 6.43 lakh during the First Plan to Rs. 450.28 lakh during the Fourth Plan, to Rs. 5581.54 lakh in Sixth Plan, Rs. 11,296.25 lakh in the Seventh Plan and then finally to Rs. 22752.21 lakh during the Eight Plan.

Moreover, the area covered under the development of forestry in Assam during various plans has also increased from 2283 hectares during the First Plan to 13867 hectares during the Third Plan, 45710 hectare during the Sixth Plan and to 38278 hectares during the Seventh Plan. The state department of forests has fixed the target of 1 lakh hectares of land to be covered during the Eighth Five Year Plan period started from 1992-93 under production forestry scheme covering the fields like Plantation of economic and commercial plants, plantation of quick growing species, farm forestry, social forestry and fuel and fodder projects. During the first two year of the Eighth Plan (1992-94), a total of 14,207 hectares of land has been covered and 12,520 hectares of land is being targeted to cover during 1994-95.

Wild Life Protection : The state forest department has distributed a good number of rare and endangered flora and fauna species throughout the state forests. To protect and preserve all these species fruitfully the forest department of Assam has undertaken some important steps by dividing the whole forest area into eight circles. Thirteen national parks and wild life sanctuaries have also been formed including the game sanctuaries. Government enacted several legislation relating to it to enforce, the protection and preservation campaign sucessfully. Under the auspices of the state department of forests, several voluntary organisation and social workers, mass awareness programme has also been started.

Moreover, the state forest department has developed 31 parks in selected sites to enhance tourist attraction. A Forest Protection Force has also been raised to facilitate the progress of green movement in Assam.

Importance of forest resources in the economy of Assam

Forest resources are having its strategic importance to the economy of Assam. About 22 per cent of the total land area of Assam is covered with reserve forest. Assam is favoured with its south western monsoon which helped her to grow various valuable trees and plants. Forest in Assam is composed of evergreen forests and tropical deciduous forests. This huge forests in Assam contribute its economy in many respect.

Forest provides timber like Sal, Bansam, Teak or Chegun, Sishu, Gamari etc. which are very much valuable for furniture making and construction works. Thus forests provide not only timber but also excellent employment opportunities to thousand engaged with this furniture making and construction works. Forests also provide fuel for household and other amenities, which is comparatively cheaper. Many people are getting their livlihood by supplying fuel, in the form of fire wood, from forests.

Forests in Assam provides raw materials for various industries like plywood industry, match industry, paper and paper pulp industry etc. In 1991, there were 655 registered factories engaged in the manufacture of wood and wood products, Furnitures and Fixtures in Assam. Timber which are required for the production of plywood are suffciently available in the forests of Assam and this led to the growth of many plywood factories in Assam which generated employment  to the extent of 5,658 nos. and producing 33 million sq. metres of plywood. The availability of soft wood facilitates the establishment of match industry in Assam. Soft woods are being used for the preparation of match sticks and boxes. There are at present 1 match factory and 2 match splint factory in Assam which generated employment to the extent of 1,117 nos. The availability of bamboo and soft wood in the forest of Assam provides sufficient raw materials for paper and paper pulp industries situated within and outside Assam. There are at present 3 paper mills in Assam. Ashok paper Mill was established in Jogighopa in the Goalpara district in 1972-73 which employed 451 persons with its capacity to produce 16 thousand metric tonnes of paper. But the company ceased its production since 1983 and became a sick industrial unit. In 1st March, 1995, the Government of Assam signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Sanghi Group Of Industries, Hyderabad, for the revival of the sick Ashok Paper Mill Limited at Joghighopa. There is also one specialised paper manufacturing factory at Guwahati. Considering the huge potentiality of the growth of paper industry in Assam, two more paper mills were set up at Nagaon and Cachar in the public sector. Forests in Assam provide raw materials, in the form of log to 459 saw mills which produce timber. Total employment generation in these mills is 3,407 numbers.

Besides, forest products like cane and reeds provide excellent opportunity for the growth of small scale industry producing cane furnitures etc. Mulbery trees available in the forest of Assam has enabled rearing and developing muga and silk industry in the State. The other forest based industries in Assam are two timber treating plant (one at Makum and other at Naharkatiya), one hard board factory at Panikhaite, 18 bidi factories and 6 Ivory industries.

Forest in Assam also provides sand and stone chips for construction purposes which are available in plenty in the side of forest streams and rivers.

Among the wild animals available in the forest of Assam, elephant, tiger, deer, bear, one horned-rhino are quite famous. The Government of Assam is preserving these animals by maintaining several forest sanctuaries. Government is getting a good amount of revenue as these sanctuaries are visited by tourist both, home and foreign. Assam has supplied one horned rhino to different Zoos of the world along with other animals. There are different types of rare birds in the forest of Assam.

Thus, forest resources in Assam are providing huge amount of revenue to the Government besides creating scope for development of various types of industries and employment to numerous persons. Considering its importance the programme of forest development has placed emphasis on creation of large scale economic plantations to meet growing demand of forest based industries and demand for timber for construction purposes, etc. In 1974, the Assam Plantation Crops Development Corporation was formed for intensive regeneration and plantation of economic crops like coffee, rubber, black pepper etc. on commercial basis and to rehabilitate the jhumiyas in the hills. The Corporation had its authorised capital to the extent of Rs. 500 lakhs as on 31st March, 1976. The company has created 10 coffee estates and 6 rubber estates. About 625 acres of land has been brought under rubber plantation. Total direct employment generation by this corporation was to the extent of 129.

Moreover, Assam and its people are deriving following indirect benefits from the forest :

(a) forest helps in attracting rains ;

(b) it maintains ecological balance ;

(c)forest restricts the flood water during summer and helps to squeeze adequate quantity of water ;

(d) it helps to protect the land from erosion of soil by water and wind ;

(e) dry leaves in the forest raises the fertility power of our land ;

(f) forest protects the state from dry and cold wind ;

(g) forest provides shelter to animals and birds of the state.

(h) forestry enhance the natural beauty of the state.

Thus, we have seen that forest resources are occupying a very important place in the economy of Assam. There is much scope for the development of forest resources which will provide ample scope for the development of forest-based industries in Assam.

Forest Policy of Assam, 1988

The Forest Policy of Assam, 1988 was announced in the State Assembly by the Chief Minister of Assam 31st March, 1988. In this policy it was stated, among other thinghs, that it would be the constant endeavour of the Government to clear all reserved forest lands of encroachments. The lawful settlers would be reorganised with a view of giving them allotment certificates akin to revenue pattas, conferring all rights excepting the right of alienation to the forest villagers which would help them to obtain bank loan and other financial assistance and contribute to improve the standard of living. All effective measures would also be taken to ensure that no new encroachment in reserved forest land take place and illegal felling of trees be stopped.

The new forest policy has revealed that massive afforestation programme would be launched and regeneration of superior and other indigenous species with minimum disturbances to the existing forest would be stepped up to improve productivity and eco-balance both quantitatively and qualitatively.

The international standard suggests that one-third of any geographical area should be under forests. With more than 3 percent reserved forest areas under forest villages and more than 10 percent under encroachments, Assam has never even the minimum requirement of forest cover. The growing menace of large scale poaching, illegal felling of valuable trees and unchecked deforestation have created a big problem for the conservation of forest in Assam.

The following are the salient features of the new forest policy of Assam :

(i) Active participation of District Councils will be encouraged in all matters of forestry in the hill areas also in the matter of elimination of Jhum system in phases.

(ii) Working plan prescription including silvicultural methods will be followed more strictly and extensively for scientific management of forestry. Preservation of diversified plant genetic resources will be encouraged.

(iii) The new policy envisaged that rare and endangered species of plants and animals will be identified, classified, enlisted and all effort will be made to rehabilitate, develop and preserve them. Due importance and support will be given to the preservation of the eco-system to develop and reconstruct the same giving due importance to living and non-living components upon which the very existence and continued survival and development of mankind depends.

(iv) Export/import of forest produce of plant and wildlife origin to and from the State will be controlled keeping in view the need of the local consumers.

(v) More area of wildlife importance will be declared as wildlife sanctuaries. Some of the existing wildlife sanctuaries shall be upgraded after proper study to National parks to emphasise their importance. Additional recreational facilities will be provided with more parks, way side and highway parks, restaurants, nurseries, wilderness trails and nature preserves.

(vi) The new-policy suggests that all poachings and other illegal activities will be completely stopped by taking effective measures and particularly by expanding the strength of the Assam Forest Protection Force as may be required from time to time in a phased manner, so that the pressure on police force is reduced to the extent possible.

(vii) Use of Wireless sets, transport facilities in both surface and water, establishment of more number of posts and better trained manpower will be ensured in the battle against poaching and other illegal forest activities.

(viii) Endeavour will be made to plant even small blocks as mini forests in community lands, scattered wasteland, institutional lands etc. so that each village or a group of people become self sufficient in fuel, fodder, thatch grass, ikras, bamboo, medicinal and other products. Such community forests would act as a measure to boost up village economy.

(ix) Public awareness to the need of forestry for our survival and for the survival of the posterity will be aroused by making sufficient arrangements for publicity and public relations.

(x) All concessions offered to plywood mills and saw mills will be suitably reviewed.

(xi) Smuggling and clandestine deals in timber and other forest products will be effectively combated.

(xii) Issue of new license to industries will be duly regulated so that the local, particularly, the tribal people are mostly benefited.

(xiii) The new policy proposes to examine, standardise and extend some concessions to all the tribals living near the reserved forests.

(xiv) As per the new forest policy, formation of co-operatives will be encouraged by offering preferential treatment in matters of forest contract, subsidiary silvicultural operations, mechanised carpentry and looms, labour contracts, marketing of forest products etc.

(xv) The weaker sections of the people including the tribal people residing in the neighbourhood of forests and the local educated unemployed youths will be encouraged to form co-operatives to run sand, stone, fish, cane and other mahals of the forest department.

(xvi) Conversion of timber for Government use will be done in a phased manner in the Government saw mills by increasing the number and capacity of such saw mills. The co-operative sector shall be encouraged to take over such operations.

(xvii) As a part of the process of linkage of forestry with industry an assessment of the need and viability of existing units, pricing policy of inputs and outputs, employment pattern and employment generating potentialities and location of headquarters of such industries will be made and corrective steps be taken.

To help mitigate the unemployment problem to the extent possible is one of the basic objectives of new forest policy. All effective steps will be taken to improve forest administration and new Management tools will be utilised to the extent possible for the same purpose in all areas of forestry.

Conservation of reserved forests falling in the inter-state boundaries will be more vigorously carried out within the bounds of the existing inter-state agreements. Necessary literature and books on forestry will be produced for use in schools and colleges.

With a view to enlarge the scope and contain research and to apply any proven developed new technique in forestry, the universities and other institutions situated within the state will be approached and helped financially.

Further, the excisting laws and rules be reviewed to ensure speedy and deterrent punishment to forest offenders charged with serious crimes.

Water Resources of Assam and its Utilisation

Among all the natural resources of Assam, water resources is considered as one of the most important resources of the state. Water can sustain all human, animal and plant life on earth. Water is essential for the survival of all these objects. Besides water in adequate quantity is very much important for the development of agriculture, fishery, animal husbandry and also for industrial development.

As agriculture is the main occupation of the people of Assam, regular and assured supply of water in adequate quantity is very much important for the development of agricultural sector. Water is no doubt the most important single requirement for the growth of various types of plants.

Sources of Water Resources

Water is available from both from over ground (surface run water) and under ground sources. The success in raising a good agricultural crops as well as running of allied activities depend upon the availability of adequate quantity of surface run water or from unde ground storage of water. It would be better to study these sources of water resources in detail.

1.Surface or over ground water resources : Rainfall and rivers are the two major sources of surface run water. Rain water : The major portion of surface run water or over ground water in Assam is derived from rainfall. Assam is well known as a heavy rainfall area. Rainfall in Assam is usually heavy due to its peculiar geographical position. The annual rainfall ranges from 70" in the plains to 250" or more in the hill areas of Assam. The Kopili Valley, lying between the Khasia-Jaintia Hills and Mikir hill in Nagaon district is the only area where average rainfall is 43" and, therefore, may be called the driest area in the state.

In Assam, the rainfall is not fairly widespread throughout the year. Rather 90 percent of the total rainfall occurs during the monsoon periods. The monsoon usually starts in June and lasts till  the end of October. The rainfall rapidly diminishes after October and December is usually the driest period of the year throughout the state. Moreover, the state faces vegaries of monsoon due to its late arrival or early termination in different years. A prolonged break in rainfall during the monsoon period causes severe drought condition in the state. Further, there are some regions under rain shadow in the south-eastern part of Nagaon districts, south western part of Golaghat sub-division of Jorhat district and the adjoining areas of Karbi-Anglong district, where rainfall is found to be very meagre in quantity. Thus average rainfall and the condition of soil may indicate the availability of water in a particular area in different periods of time.

River water : Another important source of surface water in Assam is the major river of the state. In Assam there are huge number of rivers, ponds and wet land which are providing water in the various parts ofthe state throughout the year. Brahmaputra and Barak are the two major rivers of Assam which have 35 and 9 tributaries respectively, each of which has considerable hill catchment. Brahmaputra is the major river of Assam which  links all the plain districts excepting Cachar. The river is entering the state in the Lakhimpur district in the east and flowing out of the state through the Dhubri district in the west . The river, by and large, does not exercise its fertilising influence in its upper reaches due to rapidity of its current but it does so in its lower reaches. The other major river Barak is flowing through the undivided Cachar district of Assam. During the monsoon, both of these rivers along with their tributaries spill over their banks at frequent intervals and inundate large areas with all their consequences. Further, the terrains, in the Brahamputra valley are very steep, where retention of water during the monsoon months in paddy fields, even for sali paddy, causes a great problem. Even after the monsoon a major part of the plain areas remain water-logged for varying period, depending upon the depth of the depression. Considering these problems, it is quite important to undertake scientific river management plan in Assam. The establishment of Brahmaputra Board has raised a high hope in this direction. Moreover, a River Planning Commission is established with the purpose of flood control, electricity generation, irrigation and fishery development.

2. Under-ground Water Resources : The under-ground water potential in Assam is also quite high. Out of the total area worthy of ground water exploration, nearly two-third of this potential has already been covered. As per reconnaissance estimate, there are about 16 billion cubic metres of ground water available for exploitation. This water potential could be utilised for providing irrigation facilities to 1.6 billion hectares of land adequately. It is also estimated that under-ground water resources of the state can provide assured irrigation water to 30 to 40 per cent of its total requirement. But unfortunately, the utilisation of ground water for irrigation purposes in Assam is very minimum. Moreover, there is scarcity of potable drinking water both in the urban and rural areas of the state.

A survey conducted by the North-east branch of the central Ground water Board revealed that of the 50 million hectare metres of ground water potential, the dynamic ground water resources of the state in shallow phreatic zones has been computed to be about 24,719 million cubic metre (MCM). Recently, the replemishable ground water resources of Assam is estimated at 2.47 million hectare metres peryear and its rank among all the states is 7th. This dynamic ground water resources can be used for development in the agricultural sector as it is recharged in a very short period. However, only 0.1 million hectare metre of ground water potential has so far been developed for irrigation. According to the Survey out of the total geographical area of 78,438 sq.kms, the State has a gross cropped area of 34.60 lakh hectares. Against this 34.60 lakh hectare of cultivatable land, 21.01 lakh hectare of land can be brought under assured irrigation by way of using dynamic ground water resources.

Among all the north-eastern states, Assam has the highest groundwater potential and a proper utilization of this potential can usher in a radical change in the state’s agricultural scenario. However, only 941 million cubic metres of ground water resources have been utilised so far. Besides Assam, the ground water potential in other north-eastern states have been computed as follows : Meghalaya- 593.30 MCM, Tripura-663.74 MCM, Manipur- 3153.67 MCM, Nagaland- 723.58 MCM and Arunachal Pradesh- 2222.53 MCM. This abundant ground water resource can be used to ensure rapid development in the agricultural sector, particularly in the plain areas of the hill states. The main reasons behind kepping such vast ground water resources of the states unutilised are severe shortage of electric power for harnessing groundwater in a big way and excess iron content in over 30 per cent area of the state.

It is very unfortunate that schemes for development of groundwater potential could not be taken up for shortage in electric power. While the region has potential of producing 41, 441.5 MW. of electricity which is about 41 per cent of the country’s total power requirement.

Utilisation of Water Resources in Assam

The water resources of Assam are being utilised to a limited extent. Inspite of having huge potential for the utilisation of water resources, Assam could utilise only a limited portion. The following are some of the important purposes for which water resources in Assam are being utilised.

1. Irrigation : Assam being one of the agricultural state is facing the problem of irregularity in the arrival of monsoon leading to devastation of crops due to either flood or drought arising out of scarce rainfall. Under such a situatiuon, there is immense importance of assured water supply in the agricultural fields of the state through irrigation system.

Assam is blessed with huge natural irrigation potential which remains largely neglected. It is only recently that irrigation has been given its due importance for the development of irrigation projects and for its optimum utilisation. Water necessary for irrigation facilities may be made available both from surface water and underground water sources. In order to use surface water, multipurpose river valley projects may be constructed along with the construction of reservoirs, dams and also field channels. But these are long term projects and requires huge amount of capital for its realisation. Therefore, in the short run, the lift irrigation system may be more suitable where pump sets are being utilised to draw water from perennial river sources. Again in order to utilise underground water sources, the use of deep and shallow tubewells can also provide irrigation water to the agricultural field of Assam if the under-ground level is high. In Assam, most of the irrigation projects are being operated either by lift irrigation or by tubewell irrigation system. But, the use of canal irrigation system is mostly restricted to Jamuna Irrigation Project situated at Nagaon district and also at Sukla irrigation project at Darrang and Kamrup district. At the end of Fourth Plan total irrigation potential in Assam was of the order of 2.8 lakh hectares out of which only 30 to 35 per cent of the above potential are utilised. Till the end of the fifth Plan, total irrigation potential created in Assam as in percentage of ultimate potential was 11.0 per cent only as against 48.7 per cent for all India. The irrigation programme being carried on in Assam consists of (a) major and medium irrigation programme and (b) minor irrigation programme. Total irrigation potential created in Assam upto the end of March 1993 was 4.58 lakh hectares out of which only 2.21 lakh hectares worth irrigation potential was utilised during 1991-92 , which is nearly 48.2 per cent of the ultimate potential created in the state.

2. Hydro-electric Power Generation : Assam is a store house of huge hydro-electric power potential. The meterological, topographiical and hydrological factors contribute to such a huge potential. Assam alone has 28 percent of the total hydro power potential of the country which remains largely under-utilised. As per our estimate of C.W.P.C. in the late fifties, rivers in Assam provide the possibilties of 14 million K.W. of hydro power. There can be no better alternative than the available water resources for power generation, particularly in a situation of sharply increasing cost and rapidly decreasing reserve of oil and coal. Moreover, hydro-electric plants can be established at any place in varying sizes considering local requirements.

But this hydro-potential has not yet been properly utilised. This is mainly due to the problems connected with the location of the project sites and the possible reservoirs in the foothills bordering the state. Most of these reservoirs are situated in Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Nagaland for which joint efforts by these states are very much essential for the execution of these projects.

After independence the Government of Assam put much importance on the development of hydro-electric projects considering huge hydro-power potential of the state. Accordingly Barapani Hydel Project and Umium Hydel Project at Sumer were commissioned for generating a huge volume of hydro power. But after the partition of Meghalaya from Assam both of these two projects went in favour of Meghalaya leading to a huge deficit in power generation within the state. Later on, Assam State Electricity Board has undertaken ambitious programmes for the development of some hydel projects, viz., Lower Barapani Hydel Project (250MW) etc. In the mean time, some of these projects are completed and some other remains still in incomplete stage. Karbi-Longpi Project is one of them.

In the mean time, investigations of Subansiri Dam Project, Dehang Dam Project, Dhansiri Reservoir Project, Pagladiya Detention Dam Project and Barak Dam Project have already been completed but works on none of these Projects have  been started due to paucity financial resources.

3. Development of Water ways : Water ways is the cheapest mode of transport as it provides readymade route and it does not require any maintenance expenditure. Through water ways, a huge volume of cargo can be easily transported over long distances. There are unique opportunities for developing inland water transport in Assam. In Assam, there are two rivers systems, i.e., the Brahamputra and the Barak-Kushiara and their tributaries in the south. Besides, country boats carry a good amount cargo and passengers through different rivers of the state. Assam has a total navigable water ways to the extent of 4,065.6 kms. Out of which only 2,193.6 kms. Are navigable throughout the year and the rest 1,872 kms. are navigable only during the monsoons. Thus water resources of Assam are also being utilised for navigation purposes to a great extent.

Low Degree of Utilisation of Water Resources

Inspite of having huge water resources, Assam could not utilise these valuable resources satisfactorily. The ground water potential in Assam is quite high and about 50 per cent of the total area of the state is found suitable for the exploration of ground water. As per the reconnaissance estimate in the late fifties, there are about 16 billion cubic metres of ground water available for exploitation in this region. Such a huge volume of ground water can be utilised for irrigating nearly 1.6 billion hectares of land. But unfortunately, utilisation of ground water potential for irrigation purposes is very minimum in Assam. At the end of March, 1993. Only 13.2 per cent of the total cropped area of the state was irrigated. This shows really a dismal picture in respect of the utilisation of water resources for the development of agricultural sector of the state.

In respect of generation of the hydro-electricity, the situation is worse. Inspite of having huge Hydro-power potential, only a very small percentage of this potential has been harnessed. Similar is also the case in respect of water transport. Although the state has a huge natural navigable routes for internal transport, but these routes are not being  utilised properly and efficiently. Thus in this way, the cheapest mode of transportation facilities in Assam has been thorougly neglected in the days of oil crisis and escalating transportation costs.

Remedial Measures

Under the present context, various measures should be undertaken for the utilisation and conservation of these water resources in Assam. Firstly, there is paramount need for proper assessment of water resources in the state in the light of its present requirement. Moreover, utmost care and prudence must be exercised in respect of the utilisation of water resources in the State, so as to avoid its wastage which can result in disastrous consequences. For ensuring economy and efficiency in the use of water resources, conservation of these resources is very important. Proper steps must be taken to develop those irrigation projects which can provide maximum benefits at a cheaper cost. In order to tide over the present power crisis prevailing in the state, more hydro-electric projects should be developed in varying sizes. Similarly proper steps should be taken to develop a regular and efficient inland water transport system in the state, provide the cheapest mode of transport facilities to the people in general. Thus, a comprehensive programme must be taken to cover the main three aspects, i.e., proper assessment of water resources, estimate the present and future needs of water resources and preparation of suitable projects for the best utilisation of these water resources in order to meet the different needs of the people of the state.

Problems of Flood in Assam and the Government Strategy to Control it- Brahmaputra Board

Assam is unfortunately one of those few states which are every now and then visited by floods. Experience and a study of the problem connected with the Brahmaputra and its tributaries suggest that it will be a long time before the problems of flood are adequately tackled. The two main, rivers, i.e., Brahmaputra and Barak are mostly responsible for the continuous problem of flood faced by the state. The catchment areas of the Brahmaputra and its main tributaries Sankosh, Gangadhar, Hel, Gadahar, Champabati, Saralbhanga, Pagladia, Barnadi, Aie, Manas etc. are mostly located in Arunachal Pradesh, Bhutan, Tibet, Meghalaya and Nagaland. Again the catchment areas of the Barak and its main tributaries Sonai, Katakhal, Rukni, Longai, Singla, Dhaleswari etc. are located in Mizoram and Manipur. Thus the task of flood control does not solely rests on Assam alone. Rather it requires co-ordination and co-operation among neighbouring states and also require a long span of time and huge fund to contain this problem.

Floods in Assam is a regular phenomenon. Every year, a huge area of the state is liable to floods. As per the data collected during the period from 1953 to 1978 and excluding the area protected till 1978, the total area liable to floods in Assam is around 31.5 lakh hectares as compared to that of 335.16 lakh hectares for the country as a whole which constitutes about 9.4 per cent of the total flood prone area of the country. In respect of flood prone area, the rank of Assam is fifth.

As per the memorandum submitted by the state government of Assam to the Central Government, in August 28. 1996, it found that the recurrent floods in Assam since 1953 have so far caused damages worth Rs. 3348.50 crore in the state.Out of these, damage to the public utilities stands at Rs. 832.42 crore, the rest was caused to crops, houses and livestock resources. During this period, a total of 1,650 human lives were lost, 4,25,450 cattle were perished and 31.32 lakh dwelling houses worth Rs. 265.45 crore wrere damaged. Floods also affected 92.50 million people in an expanse of 40.52 million hectares. Moreover,crops spread over an area of 4.53 million hectares were also damaged by flood during this period.

This memorandum observed that "The problem of recurrent floods in the State is a major constraint and deterrent to development. For Assam, although the river Brahmaputra and Barak represent the very essence of life of our people, it could not provide the desired yield due to inadequate utilization of the potentials. Unfortunately, these rivers have become more ‘liability’ than ‘asset’ to the people of Assam". The annual average loss on account of floods had been estimated to be over Rs. 200 crore.

The representation further observed that the maximum flood depredation were caused in 1988 when about 1.24 crore people of 16 districts were reeling under floods . The 1988 deluge claimed 226 human lives, perised 1.08 lakh cattle and destroyed 4.89 lakh houses. Floods engulfed 51.02 lakh hectares of land and breached about 85 embankements.

In 1996, floods in Assam have resulted in loss of 38 human lives and 372 livestocks, damaged 7,848 huts/houses and damaged crop area to the extent of 2.0 lakh hectares.

As the tremendous potential water resources of the Brahmaputra and Barak are not manageable to proper use for profitable purpose, it goes berserk in every rains devastating the state and the state has been experiencing an annual loss of Rs. 250 to 300 crore worth natural wealth and crops. This has also necessitated undertaking of relief , rescue, rehabilitation and repair work, to the extent of Rs. 500 to 600 crore every year.

In order to tackle the flood problem, about 4,500 Kilometers of embankments had been constructed as short-term measure. These preventive steps had offered protection to only 16 lakh hectares of land, thus exposing the rest(out of 31.5 lakh hectares of flood prove areas) to inundation. But even these embankments, constructed during the early fifties and the sixties are in dire need of improvement and modernization . Unless such steps are taken, even the now guarded land might soon fall to flood fury.

A scientific solution to the problem of flood erosion has to be discovered as constructing embankments had not solved the problem in the last four decades. In Brahmaputra, about 3,450 km. length of embankment (940 km. on the main river and 2,510 km. on various tributaries) has been constructed. However, these embanlments have failed to meet the requirements, and these are also inadequately maintained for lack of financial resources on the part of the state.

Future Strategy for Controlling Flood :

Assam is a problem state, whose production and income are facing set backs in every year due to recurrent floods. Total damages to crops, cattle, houses and public institutions in Assam has been increasing year by year, i.e., from Rs. 13.2 crores in 1970 to 24.6 crores in 1972 and from Rs.11.98 crore in 1976 to Rs. 39.80 crores in 1980 and then to Rs. 306.6 crore in 1989. Moreover, floods in Assam has also necessitated undertaking of relief, rescue, rehabilitation and repair works for which a huge amount of revenue are being diverted. Total amount of such diversion varies between Rs. 500 to 600 crore every year. Thus a good volume of state’s resources has been diverted for making repairs and for giving relief to the flood victims. Had there been no such burden, this amount of resources would have been available for development plan purpose. Further, natural calamities in in Assam make speedy implementation of plant difficult.

Thus, it is high time that the problems of floods in Assam be tackled adequately. By tackling this problem of flood, such a valuable water resources can be converted from liabilities into assets. To manage this water resources, it is necessary to construct hydel projects with the co-operation of other north-eastern states. These hydel projects will cost not less than Rs.2,10,000 crore (70,000 MW. of power @ three crore per MW) and will require a span of time of 10 to 15 years without adopting any further flood control measures. Thus the works assuaging flood hazards should be carried out by the state with its own resources and also with adequate flow of central assistance and assistance from international development institutions like World Bank. Judicious management of water and soil only can assuage flood hazards in Assam.

In the mean time, three master plants have been prepared by the government agencies at a cost of over Rs. 35,000 in order to control annual flood havoc in the entire north-eastern region. These master plans were also being updated following the advice of the centre and North-Eastern States.

The Brahmputra Board has prepared master plan (part one) for main stem of the Brahamputra river costing Rs. 32,000 crore and it was sent to seven basin states in June 1987 for comments as also to other concerned central agencies. The Central Water Commission, after examining the master plan, had observed that the problem of main stem of Brahmaputra was closely interlinked with those of its tributaries and therefore decided that the overall plan would be examined on the basis of an integrated picture of the main river and tributaries so as to provided optimum flood moderation and other benefits by the various multi-purpose projects proposed in the master plan.

The master plan (part two) for Bank sub-basin costing Rs. 2,500 crore had also been prepared and sent to seven N.E. states and other appraising agencies. Based on comments received from these agencies and seven sister states, the master plan was being updated. The master plan (part two) prepared by the Brahmaputra Board Covers flood management plans of thirty eight major tributaries in the Brahmaputra Valley and eight major tributaries in Tripura and it was also being updated following the comments and suggestion received from the appraising agencies and seven state Governments.

The Centre has allocated Rs. 43.80 crore in the Current Eight Plan for Brahmaputra Board and Rs. 25 crore for Tripaimukh and Pagladiya projects. Eight major projects have been undertaken for detailed investigation by the Board. These are Dihang, Subansiri, Pagladiya, Tiparimukh, Lohit, Kulsi, Jadukata and Someswari. The Brahmaputra Board has also undertaken construction of Hydraulic Research Institute for conducting model studies related to river morphology, floods, bank erosion and drainage congestion. The Brahmaputra Board in their master plans for preparing detailed flood management schemes within the overall framework of these plans. These master plans have identified the main reasons for frequent floods in the north-eastern region. These reason are-- the narrowness of the valleys, high rainfall, heavy encroachment of the forest land owing to increasing pressure of population. Frequent earthquates in the region has also seriously disturbed the drainage of the Brahmaputra Valley.

The report observed that the acutely braided nature of Brahmaputra coupled with slit and sand strata of its banks, comparatively steeper slopes in Assam and high sediment loads are among the main causes of its excessive erosive activity in the valley. Moreover, the river Barak, which traverses through Mizoram, Manipur and Southern-Assam has also similar characteristics as those of the Brahmaputra river, but its carrying capacity and intensity of flooding is much lower. However, both these rivers rise and fall outside the boundaries of the country.

Brahmaputra Board :

The problem of floods in Assam, alongwith the entire north-eastern region is quite acute. Recognising the magnitude and complexity of the problem, the Union Government constituted the Brahmaputra Board in December 1981 under the Brahmaputra Board Act, 1980 for planning and implementation of measures for the management of floods and bank erosion in the Brahmaputra valley. Recently, the Brahmaputra Board has been revitalized in 1997 with the appointment of all the key officials. It is only a positive indication that the new dispensation in the Centre would like to see an end to the protest by the people of Assam that very little had been done to tame Brahmaputra, tap its huge resources and control the floods. Thus the revamping of the Board is, no doubt, a good step in this direction. The new dispensation in the Board should ensure that at least the lowcost projects prepared by the Board and pending sanction from the centre are cleared first. Such steps must be taken within the reasonable time frame.

In August 1996, the centre has agreed to convert the Rs. 6 crore annual loan for implementing flood control schemes in Assam into grants from the 1996-97 fiscal year. Several long pending flood control projects have also recieved the go-ahead signal. The ambitious Tipaimukh dam project on the trijunction of south-Assam, Manipur and Mizoram has also received green signal to the Union Water Resources Ministry and this would help in checking recurrence of floods in the Barak basin. The Centre had also provided the techno-economic and environmental clearence for the Rs. 2988 crore project. The Arunachal Pradesh Government had also cleared the proposal to build inter-state dams on the Dibang and Subansiri rivers. This projects, if implemented would minimize floods in Assam by about 50 per cent and that be outlay for the two projects had been pegged at Rs. 37,000 crores. The Centre was considering funding of the projects with the help of loans from the world bank.

Again on 27th October, 1996, the Prime Minister H.d. Deve Gowda announced a comprehensive economic package for the development of the North-east. While announcing a comprehensive water management and flood control measures, the Prime Minister announced that the BrahmaputraBoard will be immediately activated to prepare a list of projects relevant for flood control, power generation and water management. Dredging operations will be launched to make inland waterways more efficient in the discharge of water and for transport. All the Brahmaputra flood control projects works henceforth will receive 100 percent grant from the centre. This is no doubt a positive step taken by the Centre and it has readily accepted the long pending demand of the state government and the people of Assam that the Central assistance for Brahmaputra flood control be turned to 100 percent grant and the Centre should take up the measures for controlling the flood in Brahmaputra. Accordingly, the centre has provided Rs.25 crore as grant in 1996-97 and Rs. 10.68 crore grant-in-aid to the Brahmaputra Board under the new central scheme to provide hundred percent grant for controlling the floods of river Brahmaputra.

The survey and investigation for construction of dam projects are going on at Jadukata, Someswari, Umnigot, Debang, Kulsi, Nao-dihing, Bhairabi and Kameng. Alternative sites for siang and subansiri dam projects were also being looked into investments Clearance for the Pagladiya dam projects built at a cost of Rs. 479.21 crore and inter-state clearance from Manipur, Mizoram and Assam for the Tipaimukh dam project were awaited. Moreover, in the mean time modifications of nine master plans of the Brahmaputra Board have been completed and submitted to the Ministry of Water Resources for its approval.

However, providing 100 percent grant for all Brahmaputra flood control projects is a great boon for Assam. Till now, the state Government was getting Rs. 25 crore as loan, which, after deduction, came to only Rs. 3 crore. However, in 1996-97, Rs. 25 crore was given as grant in aid.

Moreover, Rs. 500 crore sanctioned by the centre in the Ninth Five Year Plan for Brahmaputra flood control will be spent on Pagladiya project, Tipaimukh and Harang drainages and development schemes in Barak Valley. Of the Rs. 500 crore, Rs. 351 crore in for Pagladiya Project, Rs. 84 crore for Tipaimukh, Rs. 50 crore for preconstruction of Pagladia and Tipaimukh Projects and Rs. 10.85 crore for Harang development scheme.

The estimated cost of the four multi-purpose projects viz., Pagladia, Subansiri, Dihang and Tipaimukh is Rs. 39.323 crore with a combined installed capacity of order of 22,203 MW.

Power Resources

Power is an essential pre-requisite for industrial development. Assam is generously blessed by nature with its huge power potential based on water, natural gas, Coal and Oil. Assam alone has 28 percent of the total hydro power potential of the country, which remains under-utilised. Inspite of having huge power potential, Assam is lagging behind most of the other states of India in respect of installed capacity as well as per capita consumption of electricity. In 1975-76, the state accounted for less than one percent of the total installed capacity of the country. In 1979-80, total installed capacity of the power projects in Assam was 151.5 MW with two major generation stations viz., Chandrapur thermal (30 Mw) and Namrup thermal (111.5 Mw) and a few isolated diesel generation stations. This capacity has increased to 201.5 Mw at the end of 1980-81 following the commissioning of the first unit of Bongaigaon Thermal Power Station (60Mw) with effect from 26 th February, 1981. Further, during 1981-82 total installed capacity increased to 312.5 M.W. as against the load demand of 462 M.W.

Again in 1993-94, total installed capacity of power projects in Assam gradually increased to 534.4 M.W. Moreover, total units of electricity generated was 1068.3 million unit in 1992-93.

In Assam power is utilised mostly for domestic, commercial, industrial and for public lighting purposes. In 1950-51, per capita consumption of electricity in Assam was 0.58 Kilowatt as compared with 13.3 Kilowatt for all India. In 1989-90 the per capita consumption of electricity in Assam gradually increased to 78 Kilowatt as compared with that of 1236 killowatt for all India.

Time bound programme was taken up in the state to generate 585 M.W. of power by 1983-84 for making the state self sufficient in power. The Lakwa Thermal projects and Bongaigaon Thermal Power Station (120 M.W.) have already inaugrated and started commercial production. In the mean time, works of 150 M.W. Kopily Hydel Project has been completed and till February, 1993, this project has generated 790 M.U. of electricity. The power supply position in Assam is expected to be improved with the completion of the following projects, viz., Namrup waste Heat Power project (22 M.W.) extension of Chandrapur Thermal power Station (30 M.W.), Lakwa Gas Turbine (45 M.W.), Lower Barapani (Kamrup) Hydel Project and Karbi Longpi Hydro-Electric Project (250 M.W.) Kathalguri gas project based project (291 M.W.) and extension of Kopily hydel project (100 MW.) Kopily Hydel (250 M.W.) and Logtak (Manipu) Project has also improved the power position in Assam substantially.

Moreover, the work of Assam Gas-based power project undertaken by NEEPCO at Kathalguri has been completed and the project in Commission in 24th March, 1995. This project will ultimately generate 291 M.W. of power by utilising one million standard cubic metre of natural gas per day.

Total generation of electricity which was 658 million Kilowatt in 1978-79, gradually declined to 465 Kilowatt in 1980-81 and then gradually increased to 1079 Kwh and 939.9 Kwh in 1991-92 and 1993-94 respectively.

Thus, Assam has its rich power potential which still largely remains under-utilised, In the coming future we can hope that more power projects mainly based on natural gas, water and coal, will be commissoned in different parts of Assam. In the mean time, the Government of Assam has taken steps to establish some new power projects based on natural gas and water in the private sector.

Other Economic Resources

Economic resources are those which can be used without much conversion in its shape and character. Although all natural resources are also termed as economic resources after its processing but some resources are readily available and can be used directly both for production and consumption purposes without any processing. The two most important type of other economic resources include live stock resources and fishery resources.

Livestock Resources

Livestock is a kind of reproducible biological resources. Livestock population includes cattle, buffallos, sheep, goat,pigs, duck, etc. In Assam, a good number of rural people accepted the rearing of livestock as a secondary occupation side by side with their principal occupation. Moreover, a limited number of population in Assam, particularly dwellers in hilly slopes are practicing livestock farming as a whole time occupation.

As per the livestock census of 1988 in Assam, there are nearly 72.7 lakh cattle, 6.2 lakh buffaloes, 67 thousand sheep, 21.3 lakh goats, 13.5 thousand horses, 6.4 pigs, 84.6 lakh fowls and 29.9 lakh ducks. As per census report it is found that the livestock population is comparatively much higher in the districts like Dibrugarh and Tinsukia, undivided Cachar, Lakhimpur and Barpeta.

In order to attain a higher yield from livestock farming for longer duration, exotic varieties of cattle, goats, fowls, ducks etc. must be introduced. In the mean time steps have been taken to enrich the livestock resources of the state through rural development schemes like IRDP.

Fishery Resources

Fish is another water born resources. A considerable proportion of rural people in Assam, belonging to landless and economically backward section particularly are meeting their own requirement of fish by own catch. Moreover, a small section of popualtion has accepted fishery activities on commercial basis and also earn a good amount of income from fishery. But the fishery resources in Assam remains totally neglected inspite of having a huge potential for its development.

Fishery Potential :

Assam is endowed with huge fishery potential. Assam posses immense fishery resources in the form of rivers, beds, swamps, ponds, tanks, forest, fisheries and paddy fields. The twin river system of the Brahmaputra Valley and the Barak Valley bring enough fresh water to almost all over the state through inumerable tributaries. The ecological condition of the state is also quite favourable for pisciculture alongwith its subtropical humidity and coolness of climate.

Fishery is considered as one of the important sectors for the development of rural economy of the state. Two major rivers of India,  viz., the Brahmaputra and the Barak flow through the state. The Brahmaputra flows from East to West and runs through a distance of 730 Kms., having 42 tributaries of which 27 are in the North bank and 15 on the south bank. In its upper reaches, for a length of about 530 Kms till Guwahati, the gradient is steep and the strong surface and underwater current render commercial fishing impossible with the indigenoeous methods of fishing. The remaining 230 Kms stretch from Guwahati to Dhubri is exploited commercially for fishing.

The other major river, the Barak, flows from North to South in the Southern region of the state, for a total length of 400 Kms. It has 13 tributaries, 7 of which are in the North bank and the 6 of them are in the south Bank. Commercial fishing is practised across the entire river. The state has two newly constructed reserviors in North Cachar Hills District constructed by Kapilee Hydro Electric Project. The process of developing these reservrs into fisheries shall continue in the coming years. Total fishery potential of the state under different heads are given below.

Table No. 3.2

Fishery Potential in Assam


Potential Area

(in hectares)

1. River Fisheries (4820 Kms)

2. Beel Fisheries

3. Forest Fisheries

4. Swamp, Vast Length

5. Ponds and Tanks

6. Reservior Fisheries







Total Potential


Source : Fishery Resources and Development, Department of Fishery, Govt. of Assam 

In spite of having a huge fishery potential, the state could not utilise this potential due to lack of proper attention on the part of government, lack of proper technology and lack of peoples’ partcipation in harvesting such resources.

It is indeed a paradox that as against the availability of about 3.54 lakh hectares of water areas the state continue to be deficient in fish production. All out efforts have been made to being more areas under fishery and to increase the productivity from each water body by adopting scientific practices which has not been adopted so far in the state.

Development of Fisheries in Assam :

Development of Fishery resources in Assam is lagging behind in comparison to that other states like Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Orissa etc. The following table shows the number, type and area under fishery in Assam.

Table No. 3.3

Number of Fisheries according to Type and Categories, 1994-95



Areas (in hectares)

1. Registered Beels

2. Un-registered Beels

3. Swamps and Low- laying Area

4.Ponds and Tanls









Source : Statistical Handbook, Assam, 1995

The above table shows that there are a good number of fisheries in Assam. Total number of registered beels and unregistered beels in Assam were 430 and 766 respectively in 1992-93. Moreover, there is a huge number of swamps and low-lying area (1192 and ponds and tanks (1.85 lakh). All these fisheries are covering a huge area of land. Moreover, there are a good number of river fisheries in Assam for approximately 4820 kms. of length and varied width. In 1994-95, there were 177 regisstred river fisheries in Assam. But unfortunately, these huge volume of fishery resources of Assam largely remains under-utilised. The introduction of scientific management practices on these huge fishery resources is very much essential in the present context. If such scientific practices can be introduced then Assam will be able to boost the production fish within the shortest possible time.

Seed Production :The state being deficit in fish production, efforts have been made towards increasing production of fish in the state. Fish seed being the primary input in the production of labh fish, maximum emphasis has been laid in the production of the required quantity of fish seed in the state. The state is now almost self-sufficient in the production of fish seed, considering the present requirement. But in order to utilise the unutilised water area of the state, the production of fish seed must be increased further.

The first step towards making the state self-sufficient in the production of fish seed, was the establishment of Eco-Hatcheries in the private sector. Construction of some more Eco-Hatcheries in the private sector have been taken up by the Fish Farmer Development Agencies (FFDA), the construction of which are in progress. There are also three departmental Eco-Hatchries and two more are now under construction. Besides, there are pontable Hatcheries, Glass jar Hatcheries and Mini Brinds in the Departmental Fish farms. Under modern technology, induced breeding method has been adopted. The state had set a target of producing 2000 millions of Fish seed (both under public and private sector) during the year 1993-94 against which it had produced 2170 million of fish seed.

Fish Production : Fish being one of the main items of food for most of the people in Assam, the demand for fish is very high in the state. About 90 per cent of the people in the state are fish eaters. Calculated on the basis of average nutritional consumption of 11 kgs. of fish per head per year, the requirment of fish for the state per year comes to 2,21,000 Metric tonnes (MT) on the basis of the population of 1991 Census. The Fishery Department has set a target of production of 1,40,000 Mts. during the same year.

The main traditional varieties of fish which are available for commercial purposes include rohu, mrigal, hilsa, catla etc. and exotic varities like grass carp, common carp and silver carp. Moreover, air breeding varieties such as magur, singee, garai etc. are also found in beels and swamps. Total production of fish seed in Assam was 2386 million nos. and total production of fish in Assam was 1,53,029 metric tonnes in 1994-95.

In Assam, the demand for fish has been continuously increasing in recent years. Due to deficiency in production, the prices of fish has recorded a rapid increase. In order to meet such short fall in domestic supply, the state is importing a huge quantity of fish from other states like Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh etc.

In 1993-94, the total amount of fish imported to the state was 20, 549 Metric tonnes.

Fish Farmers Development Agency (FFDA) :

The Fish Farmers Development Agency is one of the agencies through which the Department had taken up the task of development of the existing water bodies,creation of new water bodies and to increase production of fish by adoption of modern technology.

FFDA is a centrally sponsored Agency for the development of fresh water Aquaculture, its jurisdiction being coterminous with a district. The FFDA meets two basic needs of the Fish farmers, i.e., (a) technical support including extension support and (b) financial support.

A prime objective of the aquaculture development through FFDA is to alleviate rural poverty through generation of employment among the weaker section of the society, marginal farmers etc. FFDA provides training to the fish farmers. The trained fish farmers are provided with subsidy with or without institutional finance.

During 1993-94, the FFDA subsidy has been de-linked from the bank loan. Now a fish farmer can avail FFDA subsidy without Bank loan, if he can meet the requirement of fund beyond the subsidy amount out of his own sources. During 1993-94, the Government of India sanctioned 8 (eight) more FFDAs for eight different districts of Assam, i.e. Hailakandi, Bongaigaon, Nalbari, Morigaon, Dhemaji, Golaghat, Tinsukia and N.C. Hills. With the eight new FFDAs, the total number of FFDAs in Assam comes to 23. Thus there is one FFDA in each of the 23 district of Assam. The first FFDA in Assam was set up in Kamrup District in 1995-96. Upto 1991-92, the total number of FFDAs in the State was 12. The number of FFDAs in the state rose to 15 in 1992-93 and now the state has 23 FFDAs.

The perfomance of the FFDAs shows that during 1993-94. Total water areas developed by FFDAs was 1108. 98 hectares and total number of beneficiaries covered by the FFDAs was 4107. During the year 1993-94, the Fisheries Department had realised Rs. 247.89 lakhs to the FFDAs, of which the central share was Rs. 82.00 lakhs.

Other Steps :

In order to harness the fishery potential of the state, the Fishery department has undertaken various other steps in the following manners.

(a) Development of Derelict water Bodies : There are many derelict water bodies in the state. The Department has taken up a scheme to develop the derelict water bodies to make them suitable for fish culture. But the step taken by the state is not adequate and much more is to be done for developing the huge derelict water bodies.

(b) Assam Fisheries Development Corporation Ltd : The Assam Fisheries Development Corporation Ltd. (AFDC) was set up in 1977, with the prime objective to develop the natural fisheries and thereby improve the socio-economic condition of the poor and scheduled caste fishermen and the Maimal Community of the Cachar district. The AFDC has taken the onus of development of Beel Fisheries under the World Food Programme. Till 1993-94, the Fishery Department had given an amount of Rs. 521.00 lakh to the AFDC for the develiopment of bed Fisheries in the state.

(c) Assam College of Fisheries : In order to develop proper manpower and technology for the utilisation of huge fishery potential of the state, The Assam College of Fishery was established in 1998 at Raha in the Nagaon district. The college is under the Assam Agriculture. University, where B.F.Sc. Course is being taught in this college.

(d) Training Programme : In order to provide practical training to the fish farmers, some training programmes are being undertaken by different agencies. There is a Regional Fisheries Training Institute (RFTI) at Amranga in the Kamrup District, which is about 35 Kms. from Guwahati. The Institute was set up with the funds provided by the North Eastern council. It provides refresher course training to the in-service personnel of the North Eastern states. The duration of the course is nine months. It also organises short term Fishery Training courses for the fish farmers of Assam and other North-Eastern States.

Between 1987 and 1993-94, the RFTI has given training to 330 Fishery Officers and fish farmers.

There are two more training institutes, one at Joysagar in Sibsagar district the other at Guwahati. They provide training courses for the fishery demonstrators and also for the fish farmers. During 1993-94, both the Institutes provided training to 66 Fishery Demonstration and fish farmers.

Moreover, FFDAs are also conducting short duration training course for fish farmers who are selected for taking up implementation of various schemes under FFDAs for their self-employment. During 1993-94, the 23 FFDAs trained about 3090 fish farmers in the state.

But the training programmes undertaken so far is not adequate considering the huge fishery potential of the state and the number of persons involved in it. Thus adequate steps must be taken to arrange fruitful training programmes for those persons.

In order to draw maximum benefits from the fishery sector, the Directorate of Fisheries has taken a series of measures like production of quality fish seeds both in Government and private sectors with establishment of modern infrastructures which include-development of eco-hatcheries and fish seeds farms, supplying adeuate volume of fish seeds to fish farmers, development agencies, extension services, making provision for training and research etc.

As a result of these measures, the production of fish in Assam had increased to nearly 1.55 lakh mt. in 1996-97. The state Government is initiating series of ambitious programmes for increasing the production of fish and also for harvesting the additional and unutilised fishery potential areas of the state.

Fishery Development under Assam Rural Infrastructure and Agriculture Service Project (ARISAP) :

In recent years, a new programme entitled "Assam Rural Infrastructure and Agriculture service project (ARIASP) is undertaken with the assistance of the World Bank. Under this project, the Department of Fisheries, Assam has secured a total of Rs. 28.37 crore in order to increase the production of fish from the present level of 1.55 lakh mt. to the projected requirement of 2.21 lakh mt. including adequate provision of allied infrastructure facilities. This project (ARIASP) will continue for a span eight years since it has started from 1995-96.

Out of the total allocation of Rs. 28.37 crore on this project, a sum of Rs. 21.70 lakh has been earmarked for fish seed production. Rs. 72.20 lakh for mobile fish health clinic, Rs. 820.00 lakh for development of farmers community tanks and ponds, Rs. 124.40 lakh for open water fisheries, Rs. 841.80 lakh for beel fisheries development, Rs. 335.90 lakh for fisheries research, Rs. 449.60 lakh for fisheries extention, education and training and Rs. 72 lakh for project monitoring call. All these earmarked amount would be spent during the span of eight years.

Under this project, an eco-hatchery with other infrastructural facilities is proposed to be established at Assam Agricultural University, Jorhat for the production of fish seeds. Six ambulatory vans with acessories have been proposed to be procured for rendering services related to fish health care. Moreover, about 800 nos. of fish farmers ponds, 150 nos. of Community tanks will be developed with in the stipulated period of eight years. Besides, about 5000 hectares of natural beel areas and 500 hectares of open water fisheries have been taken up for the promotion of pisciculture so as to enchance the production of fish and to uplift the socio-economic condition of the fishermen community. Education and training to fish farmers and in service and in-service personnel in latest technology in the field of aquaculture are proposed to be intensified at the university and department level. Accordingly, Fisheries research activities in Raha and Jorhat are argumented. A project monitoring cell will also be established for meticulour planing and programming in this sub-sector.

Since after the introduction of ARIASP, the achievements of the fishery sector took a new turn with the development of large number of farmers’ ponds, beel fisheries etc.

During 1996-97, the extent of progress made in the fishery sector was quite encourgaging. During this year 220 nos. of farmers’ ponds and 57 community tanks were developed. Moreover, 44 nos. of farmers ponds were brought under intensive fish culture with horticulture and 25 nos. of ponds were also developed under pig-cum-fish culture. Besides, 16 nos. of vehicles were procured while trainings were imparted to around 200 nos. of farmers and 34 nos. of in service officers. Apart from these, civil work , for construction of four training centres at Tezpur, Barpeta Road, Joysagar and Amranga have already been completed. Total amount of expenditure incurred in the fishery sector during 1996-97 was nearly Rs. 2.38 crores.

ARIASP project is no doubt an important project for the intensive development of the fishery sector of the state. Considering the huge fishery potential of the state, the officials of the Fishery  department should try to implement this project with utmost sincerity so that instead of ritual, the project is implemented for the benefit of the general fish farmers of the state.

Thus, inspite of having a huge fishery development potential the state is lagging behind some other similarly placed states in respect of production of fish. Under such a situation, Department of Fishery, Assam should take adequate steps to modernise the fishery sector by adopting scientific practice through its viable schemes. Some of the districts of Assam which are having a huge potential for the development of fishery resources include Dhubri, Barpeta, Kamrup, Nagaon, Morigaon, Sonitpur, Sibsagar, Karimganj and Cachar. Thus the Government of Assam should take adequate steps to develop fishery resources in these district and local educated youths should come forward to develop this fishery resources of the state on a commercial basis.


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