|Project Rationale and Linkage to Country/Regional Strategy
The Brahmaputra river system is the fourth largest in the world in flood discharge. While it serves as a lifeline for North Eastern states, frequent flooding and severe erosion have major adverse effects on the economy and ecology, threatening key urban centers, basic infrastructure, industrial and agriculture areas, and natural heritage sites. They remain a major cause of poverty in NE states, with devastating impacts leading to high morbidity, forced seclusion, loss of livestock, crops and assets, and cessation of availability of basic services. Addressing the problems requires a comprehensive and cost-effective flood and erosion mitigation management strategy and programs, with a balanced combination of structural and nonstructural measures suitable in the context of NE states. Along with this, policy and institutional basis needs to be strengthened to support this end, with an integrated and basin-wide perspective. The Government's 11th Five-year Plan puts priority to provide appropriate protection measures of the flood-prone areas. The draft CPS for India notes that the water sector is of fundamental importance in promoting economic growth, poverty reduction, and environmental sustainability, and advocates integrated water resources management (IWRM) as a tool to these ends. It also focuses on poverty reduction of disadvantaged areas, especially in the poor NE states.
Against this background, the Assam Integrated Flood and Riverbank Erosion Risk Management Project (the Project) aims to promote economic growth and poverty reduction by enhancing the security against flood and riverbank erosion damages across the state. This is pursued through provision of comprehensive structural and nonstructural flood and riverbank erosion risk management (FRERM) programs. Structural measures will primarily focus on areas with vital economic and national interests in the Brahmaputra River. An adaptive, process approach is taken to provide options most suitable and cost-effective to local conditions, e.g., flood protection and riverbank protection along the reaches of vital interests, and more adaptive measures in rural areas such as strategic retirement of dykes and flood proofing. These will be effectively combined with appropriate non-structural measures, including flood and riverbank erosion forecasting, warning, and management systems, disaster prone area zoning, and safety net to the most vulnerable affected poor.
To prepare the Project, a PPTA was implemented for Assam (TA No. 4896-IND). It has prepared a MFF project package including three appraised subprojects, and actions and programs for policy and institutional development including the sector roadmap, through feasibility studies and sector and institutional assessments including diagnostic analyses to define capacity development programs. The TA also provided advice to the Assam state government's (ASG's) preparation process of its draft State Water Policy, which is in the advanced stage. Nevertheless, in effectively initiating the Project, there remains a large gap between the present and required policy and institutional framework and capacities of the executing agencies, which remain largely ad hoc and structure-oriented, with insufficient management systems to respond to the dynamic river environments in an adaptive, efficient, and sustainable manner. Capacities to pursue comprehensive FRERM programs in consultations with diverse stakeholders with effective linkages with the State's disaster management systems are also limited. There is also a need for providing immediate capacity strengthening of the relevant project institutions for the timely Project initiation and implementation. The subject TA, which is proposed as the 2nd phase of the PPTA, is needed to provide critical capacity strengthening support to these ends.