Early Warning System


Break drop of the studies

Dhemaji, being a riverine district and having its typical geographical and topographical location has been chronically affected by flood, these histories of recurring flood being analyzed from different aspects differently. The people inhabiting in this particular location of the greater Ganges-Brahmaputra basin being wise onlooker of the natural events have also their own perspective of analyzing the oncoming of flood, these analyses are based on keen observation of the nature, some traditional believes and thought, some religious and ritual customs and some are age long peoples researches on omnipotence natural entities. These observations and findings of the analyses have significant and outbidding importance in the flood preparedness measures of different communities. The study was carried with the objective to organize and understand the various methods of early warning systems in this part of the region of the country.

Anthropo-genetically Dhemaji has unique position in Assam due to transitional metamorphosis of different ethnic groups and creeks. The demographic characteristics and different socio-economic processes also give the district a different status. The demographic identity of the district is vividly significant for its schedule tribe and schedule caste population. These populations have different mode of attachment to the rivers and other natural resources. The prominent groups are Mishing, Sonowal, Deori, hajong, Lalung, Kachari, Namasudra, Koibarta etc. Each of these ethnic groups has their own cultural, social, structural and religious features. Because of their diverse socio-economic and cultural factors the impact of flood on different communities varies and thus the vulnerability also have different dimensions, as some of the societal ingredients make some communities to comply to their socio-cultural status and some believes help them to cope with changing scenario of flood. All these aspects have influenced the way the community accepts the flood and the efforts they make to mitigate the flood devastation compel the native communities to research on their traditional and customary flood warning practices and strive for existence.

Methodologies for the study

The study is carried out in ten categorically selected villages, based on typical flood situation, demographic, anthropogenic, ethnic and techno-physical criteria. The flood situation includes- nature of flood, location and flood history etc.; the demographic criteria selected were number of habitats, type of habitats, age of the habitats, population could be covered, percentage of the population compared to their total population of the group in the district etc.; the anthropogenic  criteria covered-caste, relation of the community with the river/floods, living pattern, food habit, social structures, role of women in the family as well in the society, general livelihood practices etc.; the ethnic criteria considered were the- customary rules and practices of the communities, traditional expertise, inter-relation with other communities etc.; and the techno-physical criteria selected were- accessibility and communication facilities, status of vulnerability, geographical location etc. The study areas then located and mapped out and different sets of commonalities and modalities thus being identified and classified to carry out the study. The 10 locations thus determined are as follows-

1.      Simen chapori- Major bari ghat

2.      Simenmukh- Harinathpur and Kashinathpur Mishing

3.      Muktiyar- Ajarbari and Taye gaon


4.      Muktiyar-Tirachi basti

5.      Deorighat

6.      Kosek

7.      Amguri-Ayengiya

8.      Gai-Deori

9.      Bauli-Konch

10.  Janghali Office


The study emphasized on gathering as much as analogous information from the people through focus group discussion, the programme staff present in the discussion as facilitator and neutral observer. The key points of the discussion noted and specific clarification collected from selective persons of the village while necessary.

Identification of the group

A prior decision was taken to fix up the composition of the group to extract the maximum information from the discussion and to incorporate a collective view from every fraction of the population- a rationalized configuration is designed including- active members of Duryug Samitees ( village disaster management committee) where it exists or any village committee, PRI representatives, SHG members, government employee, local school teacher, business man, village head man, religious leader, ICDS worker, representative from local organization etc. To include representation from every age group thrust was given to select accordingly.

A request letter was intimated in advance to the village head man/ president or secretary of Duryug Samitee referring the purpose and schedule date and time of the meeting along with proposed selection criteria of the representatives to be present in the meeting and size of the group was requested to fix to be 20-30 members.


Mode of discussion

The target group as per design and identified was a mixed group and some instances RVCs intervention in some localities was infrequent. So prior to commencement of the discussion people from RVC had to explain in detail of the concept of early warning for flood and other disasters and the present trend of early warning, role of community based disaster preparedness measures, the objectives of the present study, the aspects of the group discussion and the follow up trend of the study.

With this introductory session the modality of the discussion again discussed with the group and one moderator for the discussion was selected from the gathering with the consent of the people. The discussion then became an impromptu session, the participants forwarded their views how they determine the adversity of a forthcoming natural event, including all aspects- ritual, religious, customary, traditional believes and practices, early warning provision from the government and local media also focused on the effectiveness of these with evidences. To affix the timeframe RVC participants sometimes steer the discussion for proper orientation. The views then noted down and further clarification being made in between. The points thus noted down again shared with the group at the conclusion.


General observations in 10 focus group discussions

  Some believes/observations are common in almost all communities

  Some believes/observations can be stated as mere coincidences, no any scientific explanation is possible for such believes

  Some believes/observations are suggestions rather than firm believes

  Some believes/observations are natural enigma

  Some observations need further study for scientific approval

  Some believes/observations have lost their authenticities due to rapid climatic change


Since the study had limited scope to go further detail analyses of these outcomes emerged during the entire process and this is probably the first study of this type so more study and analyses have to be carried out to systematize the findings.


List of the traditional believes and observations as flood EW

Observations based on animal psychology

1.      In the morning of the very last day Assamese month Powsh (Mid of January) i.e. the eve of Magh bihu, if the cattle are found to stay standing under their shed this indicates a forthcoming flood.

2.      If cow, goat, buffalo, pig become very unsteady and make unusual moos and grunts in their shed it indicates a forthcoming disaster particularly a flood or earthquake.

3.      If the cattle behave abnormally and furiously when they are brought for bath during the morning of Garu Bihu it is believed that the flood is ahead.

4.      When insects like-locust, grasshopper etc. come out from their hide and fly randomly and enter house, this situation suggests a sudden change in the weather condition, more occasionally a flood.

5.      Ants shift their shelter to higher places with their eggs and food stuff; it indicates a definite forthcoming flood.

6.      Mosquitoes behave abnormally, suddenly they come out from the forest or place of hide in huge numbers at any time of the day and attack their prey violently, and this indicates a sudden flood.

7.      When fox howls irritably at higher place it indicates a forthcoming prolong drier season and when it howls from a low lying location it indicates a probability of high flood.

8.      Doves cry monotonously before a forthcoming flood.

9.      A mysterious bird locally known as Mlong cries before a devastating flood.

10.  A bird having local name Chatak cries mournfully before flood.

11.  The monotonous high pitch sound of an insect locally called as Jilley indicates sign of forthcoming fair weather.

12.  A drastic change in weather is indicated by random fly and suicidal action of full grown termite.

13.  Dog bathes frequently before a unseen forthcoming flood.

14.  A bird locally known as Kutum cries and sways in the sky indicating a forthcoming devastating flood.

15.  Toads and frogs make continuous sounds before torrential rain and devastating flood.

Observation of the nature:

1.      If the moon inclines towards south it implies a forthcoming devastating flood.

2.      If the cloud gathers in the south-west direction it indicates a probable storm, in south-east direction indicates a rain and flood and in north-west indicates normal rain.

3.      A species of grass locally know as Torapat when it new buds come out with tints of silt, it indicates a devastating flood.

4.      If the moon has red glow it indicates forthcoming torrential rainfall within three days.

5.      When rain starts in

                                                                                       i.      Wednesday-Thursday- It indicates a torrential rain fall in next 22 days.

                                                                                     ii.      Saturday- Indicates continuous rain in next three consecutive days.

                                                                                    iii.      Monday-Indicates raining in next 8 consecutive days.

                                                                                   iv.      Tuesday-Rain will continue for few days

                                                                                     v.      Sunday-Rain will occur for longer duration

6.      Rainbow: - When rainbow extends from north-east to south-west and if the full half is clearly visible then indicates a devastating flood ahead.

7.      Thunderbolt: - When thunderbolt occurs in north it indicates heavy rainfall and flood and occurrence of thunderbolt in the south indicates a fair weather ahead. South-west thunderbolt indicates a devastating storm, south-east indicates a prolong rain and possible flood and north-west indicates normal rain.

8.      Massive bamboo flowering before the summer season indicates occurrence of devastating flood.

9.      Wind: - Southwest direction of wind a strong storm followed by heavy torrential rainfall.

10.  Cloud: - When cloud floats from northeast towards southwest it indicates a forthcoming flood.

11.  When Simul blooms flower at n earlier date the normal flowering period, it indicates a forthcoming flood

12.  If mango trees bear more flower than the flowers of Jackfruits it indicates more rain and flood.

13.  People have their own calculation that if it rains continuously for three to four days in the adjacent Arunachal hills water will reach the low lying areas within 6 to 10 hours.

Religious and ritual believes:-

1.      The priest of the Mishing community forecast the nature of the weather for the forthcoming days from their ritual calculations based on the signs on in the heart of the pig sacrificed in Dubur Puja.

2.      Some priest forecast weather based on dreams.

3.      People believe if Saturn becomes the king of water then that year flood comes in many waves but the floods are of short duration and less devastative.


Best practices:-

Most of the villages covered under this study dont have a traditional organized flood early warning system, only the following cases have been identified which could be recognized as best practices among the communities-

1.      People of Muktiyar Taye gaon used to alarm people at downstream through the personnel communication. People flying through the village (which has been recognized as one of the vulnerable point in the Brahmaputra dyke) get information on the trend of the river flow and possible consequences. In some inevitable cases they use mike set to inform people at downstream.

2.      In Arne Chapori village (where the Brahmaputra dyke breached in 1998)  use to warn people by shouting and beating drum and bronze shield  but this practice becomes obsolete as it loses its  significance.


Some other emerging cross cutting issues:-

People of Junghali office village feel that natural indicators gradually loss its importance due to rapid change in the climatic condition also because of excessive human intervention along the different reaches of the rivers and thus though these natural indicators once play important role in forecasting the weather condition can not serve the purpose.

People of Tirachi Basti village say that flood situation becomes more devastative and unpredictable not only because of the natural degradation but also due to unplanned  human activities, these activities-such as construction of  roads without proper drainage and drainage constriction due to improper designs of bridge and river routing, etc. contribute a lot in aggravating the flood situation.


Peoples recommendations:-

      In some remote villages of Dhemaji district, where literally no communication system exists here radio plays an important role, but people feel that the flood forecasting messages broadcasted by local AIR station are more general and have little information for these areas, to make the information more vivid and informative sequential information of the river situation at upstream with adequate information of the embankment should be included.

      Adequate man power should be deployed round the clock for the surveillance and reporting on the embankment condition during normal flood season and this information should be updated through radio.

      The PRI members should have the latest flood and embankment condition report so that people could access this information easily.

      Special flood news bulletins should be broadcasted by the local radio station twice daily particularly in local languages-such as in Mishing, hazong, Deori etc.

      Local thana and police station should take initiative to inform people on big flesh floods like flood in 2000 and 2004.

Prepared by

 Rural Volunteers Centre

Akajan, Dhemaji

Ph:- 03753-246306, 246436

FAX:- 245758

Email: riverbasinfriends@yahoo.co.in, ruralvolunteerscentre@yahoo.co.in