As the monsoon sweeps through North East India, much of Assam is under water yet again. As of July 17, nearly 4 million people are affected by the floods, according to government data. More than 70 people have already perished while 40,000 people across 19 districts are currently in government-designated relief camps. Thousands more would have set up tarpaulin tents on higher land, waiting for the water to recede before they can go back to whatever remains of their homes.

The floods are a way of life for much of Assam’s rural population, thanks to the state’s unique fluvial landscape. But what would it take to end the trail of death and destruction the rampaging Brahmaputra and its tributaries leave behind each year? Can anything be done at all?

Here’s a reading list that contextualises the annual Assam floods – why they occur like clockwork every year; what the government does to mitigate them; why those measures usually fail to prevent damage; and what experts and local communities say should be done instead.

Can Assam’s annual flood misery be blamed on government red-tape?

Is Assam’s fight against the floods year akin to battling nature’s brute force against whom even the most cutting edge research and science often fall short? Experts say the real problem could be the government’s “piecemeal” approach.

Flood affected villagers sit on a boat in front of their partially submerged house, at Chandrapur in Kamrup district

Flood-control methods deployed in Assam have actually worsened the problem

Embankments are the most widely used engineering interventions against floods in Assam. Do they actually make things worse?

Forest officials rescue a female elephant calf from the flooded Kaziranga National Park, in Nagaon district

Severity of Assam floods heightens old fears about dams in the Brahmaputra basin

The Indian state technocracy has long advocated big “multipurpose dams” as the panacea to Assam’s flooding problems. But local communities and many researchers of the Brahmaputra say experiences so far suggest they are a recipe for disaster.

Villagers paddle their boat next to a partially submerged hut in the flood affected area of Hatishila, in Kamrup district of Assam

A speculative river: Why communities along Brahmaputra need much more research-backed information

India’s efforts towards flood mitigation in Brahmaputra are not backed by scientific research and wisdom of riverine communities, for the most part. This has resulted in an array of flawed top-down measures over the years that have done more harm than good.

Vehicles negotiate a waterlogged road in Assam's flood-hit Nalbari

Due to an ‘accounting error’, Assam has not received any special Central flood aid since 2014

The lack of adequate and timely disbursement of funds by the Centre has meant that the state government cannot carry out repair activities in time, leaving local populations vulnerable to the wrath of the Brahmaputra and its tributaries year after year

A family shifts to safer place from the flood-hit Baghmari village near Kaziranga in Nagaon district of Assam on June 30