ADB, India Ink $200M Loan for Brahmaputra Project

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of India have signed a $200 million loan agreement to strengthen flood and riverbank erosion risk management along the 650 km long main stem of the Brahmaputra river in Assam . The loan will support the Climate Resilient Brahmaputra Integrated Flood and Riverbank Erosion Risk Management Project in Assam, which aims to protect lives, livelihoods, and assets from recurrent flooding and continual riverbank erosion of the Brahmaputra river .

Background of Brahmaputra Project

The Brahmaputra river is one of the largest and most dynamic rivers in the world, originating from the Tibetan Plateau and flowing through China, India, and Bangladesh before joining the Ganges and emptying into the Bay of Bengal. The river supports rich biodiversity, fertile agriculture, hydropower potential, inland water transport, and cultural diversity. However, the river also poses significant challenges for the people living along its banks, especially in Assam, where it covers about 90% of the state’s area.

The river is prone to catastrophic flooding in the spring when the Himalayan snow melts. The average discharge of the Brahmaputra is about 19,800 cubic meters per second (m3/s), and floods reach about 100,000 m3/s. The flood prone area of the state as assessed by the Rastriya Barh Ayog (RBA) is 31.05 lakh hectares against the total area of state 78.523 lakh hectares i.e. about 39.58% of the total land area of Assam. This is about 9.40% of total flood prone area of the country. Records show that average annual area affected by flood is 9.31 lakh hectares. The flood problem of the state is further aggravated due to flash floods by the rivers flowing down from neighbouring states like Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya.

The river also causes severe bank erosion due to its high sediment load, braided channels, shifting courses, and meandering nature. Bank erosion by the rivers has been a serious issue since last six decades as more than 4.27 lakh hectares of land was already eroded away by the river Brahmaputra and its tributaries since 1950, which is 7.40 % of area of the state. The annual average loss of land due to river erosion is nearly 8000 hectares. Bank erosion not only results in loss of land, but also displaces people, damages infrastructure, disrupts communication, and reduces navigability.

Project Objectives and Components

The project builds on the success and lessons from the previous ADB-financed Assam Integrated Flood and Riverbank Erosion Risk Management Investment Programme implemented during 2010–2020, and similar investments in Bangladesh. It will continue to pursue a cost-effective, adaptive, and systematic river stabilisation approach to managing the Brahmaputra river.

The project has two main objectives: (i) to enhance climate-resilient flood and riverbank erosion mitigation systems in the Brahmaputra River; and (ii) to strengthen knowledge-based flood and riverbank erosion risk management planning.

The project has four main components:

  • Component 1: Climate-resilient flood and riverbank erosion risk mitigation measures in subproject areas implemented and maintained. This component will include stabilising 60 km of riverbanks, installing 32 km of pro-siltation measures, and building 4 km of climate-resilient flood embankments in five high-priority districts (Dibrugarh, Goalpara, Kamrup Rural, Morigaon, and Tinsukia). These interventions will result in securing living spaces, supporting livelihoods, creating employment opportunities, and ultimately enhancing the navigability of the river .
  • Component 2: Knowledge-based flood and riverbank erosion risk management planning strengthened. This component will include improving flood forecasting and warning systems, conducting modern surveys using drones and satellite imagery, developing erosion and embankment breach modeling tools, establishing asset management systems, preparing flood risk maps, promoting land use planning, and piloting nature-based solutions and the graduation approach .
  • Component 3: Institutional capacity development for project implementation. This component will include providing technical assistance, training, and equipment to the project executing and implementing agencies, as well as strengthening their coordination, monitoring, and evaluation mechanisms .
  • Component 4: Project management support. This component will include providing financial management, procurement, safeguards, communication, and other administrative support to the project executing and implementing agencies .

Project Benefits and Outcomes

The project is expected to have the following benefits and outcomes:

  • Reduced flood and riverbank erosion risks for about 1 million people living in the project areas .
  • Increased crop production over 50,000 hectares due to improved flood protection and irrigation facilities .
  • Enhanced resilience of communities and ecosystems to climate change impacts through nature-based solutions and adaptation measures .
  • Improved access to markets, services, and opportunities through better connectivity and navigation .
  • Empowered women through disaster-resilient economic activities, gender-responsive planning, and social safeguards .
  • Strengthened institutional capacity for evidence-based decision making, integrated planning, and sustainable management of the Brahmaputra river .

The project is part of ADB’s commitment to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty .

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