Guwahati, July 11, 2019:
Our friendly neighbors Bhutan might just have saved countless lives in Assam! Amid the heavy flooding in the state, a series of WhatsApp messages sent from concerned Bhutanese people to their brethren across the border have alerted people of Assam about impending dangers and have doubtlessly saved countless lives.
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These messages were sent to warn the Indian people staying downstream of the Aai, Saralbhanga and Manas rivers about cloud-bursts, swollen rivers and possible flash floods affecting people in Assam.
Earlier, messages were sent via the involvement of the dzongdag – the administrative head of the dzonkhag, or district – in Geluphu passing information to the officials in Bhutan’s capital Thimphu, who would then inform officials in New Delhi.
The officials in New Delhi would, in turn, inform officials in Guwahati, who would pass the warnings on to Kokrajhar district headquarters. The messages were then relayed to people living near the Indo-Bhutan border.
But now, WhatsApp has come into play. Now, the warnings are routed through members of Bhutan-India Friendship Association (BIFA) to friends in NGOs like the North East Research & Social Work Networking (NERSWN), who pass the information to their network.
These messages would be relayed within minutes which would enable the villagers to prepare in advance for the natural calamity.
Kamal Kishor Hazarika, project officer at the District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) in Kokrajhar has concluded that these early ‘warnings’ have probably saved hundreds of lives in Assam’s Kokrajhar district as flash floods are often difficult to predict. For emergency, the villagers have come to depend on WhatsApp, amid the smart technology boom in the nation in the last three years.
In this area of Assam where property and lives are lost each year, even a short lead time will save countless lives in the flood-hit territories.
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