India's Assam State Tackles Floods, Erosion with ADB Help

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - India's Assam state will receive Asian Development Bank (ADB) assistance to combat flooding and erosion, which regularly cause large economic losses and social upheaval in one of the country's poorest regions.

ADB's Board of Directors approved a loan package of up to $120 million for the Assam Integrated Flood and Riverbank Erosion Risk Management Investment Program, which will include both infrastructure improvements and non-physical measures.

"The program will help reduce Assam's vulnerability to floods and erosion, spurring more private investment, growth and reducing poverty levels," said Kenichi Yokoyama, Principal Water Resources Management Specialist in ADB's South Asia Department.

Much of the state's rural and urban land is in flood-prone areas alongside the Brahmaputra River and its tributaries. Embankments and other structures protect about half of the vulnerable locations, but their effectiveness is reduced by insufficient maintenance and progressive river erosion. An increase in the number and intensity of extreme weather-related events linked to climate change is expected to worsen the current problems.

The program will focus on improving protection for communities in three sub-project areas covering 90 kilometers along the Brahmaputra River, where as many as 1 million people earn their livelihoods. Over 40 kilometers of existing flood embankments will be renovated, riverbank erosion will be addressed using cost-effective and environmentally friendly technologies, and steps will be taken to put infrastructure maintenance on a more sustainable footing. The program will also establish community-based disaster management committees and support flooding awareness campaigns, improved warning systems, community shelters and hazard maps. To gain a better understanding of the region's complex floodplain hydrology, scientific studies and monitoring projects will also be undertaken.

"By reducing flood-related losses and encouraging investments in intensive agriculture production, the incomes of farm laborers and marginal farmers are likely to rise substantially," said Mr. Yokoyama.

ADB's loan funds will be released in tranches, with the first requested amount set at $56.9 million. It has a 25-year term, with a grace period of 7 years and annual interest determined in accordance with ADB's LIBOR-based lending facility. The government will provide counterpart funds of $14.2 million for a total first tranche cost of $71.1 million. The full program investment cost is set at $150 million with the government providing $30 million equivalent.

A linked technical assistance grant of $600,000 from the United Kingdom's Department for International Development, administered by ADB, will be used to build up the capacity of those engaged in preparing and implementing the community-based flood risk management programs.

The Assam state government is the executing agent for the program, which is expected to be completed by September 2017.