Descending from the plateaus of Tibet and flowing through China, India and Bangladesh, the Brahmaputra is one of India’s mightiest rivers, its width running up to 10 kilometers at some places. On its 3,000-kilometer journey, the Brahmaputra provides a livelihood to thousands of communities living on its banks. They depend on it for food, water and farming. In 1950, however, the great earthquake in Assam altered the topography of the river valley and the people of Assam have since been struggling with intense droughts and floods.

Since the earthquake, Assam has witnessed severe cases of river erosion. According to official records, 36 villages, 10 schools, six tea gardens and hundreds of humans and animas have been washed away. The situation has been exacerbated by increasing deforestation and erratic climate changes.

In 2012, floods in Assam displaced over a million people and affected close to 4,500 villages. Today, these villagers from Tinsukia district in Upper Assam are struggling to protect their land and livelihoods from the eroding banks and the rising waters of the mighty Brahmaputra.

Biju Baruah, Member of Rohmoria Erosion Resistance Struggle Committee

"We depend on this river for our food and livelihood but the erosion and floods have destroyed everything. When the big floods happened in 2004, we saw elephants being carried away in the floods."

Renuka Bharati, Upper Laopani Village Resident

"Every year, my family and me take shelter in a nearby school when we notice the water levels rising. The government has never offered us any compensation but last year an NGO came and gave us some tin sheets to build roofs for our new houses. I came here from Arunachal Pradesh and have never seen a river like this back home."

Dipunjay Gohai, Secretary of Rohmoria Erosion Resistance Struggle Committee

"It’s only because we have been fighting this as a people’s movement that we’ve got about two kilometers of Geobags thrown at us but what about the rest? When we protested in the past, the police beat us up. We just want land, a house and protection from the erosion to save the river. Is that too much to ask for?"

Uday Shah, Boatman, Upper Laopani Village

"Some years ago, I had a boat of my own and used it to ferry passengers and goods along the river but the floods took away my boat, house and fields. Today, I hire this boat from someone else and try to make a living. I moved to Assam from Bihar when I was a little boy and the river looked so different then. Now, it looks like it will disappear."

Jyoti Saikia, Resident of Kosuoni Village in Rohmoria

"I’m scared of living here now and worry for my children but we have no choice. Where will we go? This year, we plan to leave this place before the monsoons arrive. The seasons have changed and we can’t predict the rains anymore."

From On The Edge – Brahmaputra by Karen Dias.