Human civilization has forever sought a water body to survive and grow; the banks of a river have been the most preferred location for human proliferation and growth. History is replete with such instances where rivers have been the melting pots of civilizations; in fact, many civilizations have been named after the rivers beside which they have grown. The Brahmaputra has been no different as the chequered Assamese civilization has grown along its northern and southern banks. Besides, the Brahmaputra Valley has attracted other civilizations to survive and thrive on its fertile banks. That there has been a demographic imbalance due to this is another matter altogether.
Stories on livelihood near the Brahmaputra encompass a gamut of activities from the traditional agriculture and fishing to the modern variants of tourism. From Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh, where the true Brahmaputra takes shape, the massive river flows through the entire length of Assam dividing the State into its two distinct Northern and Southern halves. Along the way, over the centuries, it has defined the agrarian characteristics and economy of Assam. That the main festivities of Assam pertain to the agricultural seasons of sowing and harvesting is true manifestation of the all-encompassing influence that the Brahmaputra has had on the life of Assam.
And so, the river offers a lifeline and a lifetime of livelihood opportunities. In the upper reaches of Assam, the paddy fields of Dibrugarh in the south bank and Dhemaji in the north bank have produced rice in record quantities that have been possible only due to the swollen Brahmaputra and its massive tributaries coupled with the incessant rains of the monsoon season. Associated fishing activities have made people economically sustainable from the activity besides giving employment to lakhs of citizens. Boat makers have made their livelihoods as also boatmen who have forever ferried people over these waters. Till date, the attraction of Majuli – one of the largest riverine island in the world – has drawn tourists from all over the world and these continue to be ferried from the mainland on boats which have been mechanized in modern times. And then of course there are the chaporis (small temporary islands) that jut out of the river during the winters offering refreshing options of various tourism activities like picnics, bonfire dinners, star gazing activities etc. Towards Guwahati, the chaporis become an exciting destination for various celebrations and get-togethers. Sporting to literary activities have been known to take place on the pristine sandy shores of these chaporis and the ambience on them are often customized to suit the mood of the occasion. Tour operators have survived and thrived because the regal river flows through the state. In Guwahati, private ship and cruise operators have given once-in-a-lifetime tour experiences to visitors with their luxurious river ships offering guests the chance to experience Assam’s opulence along the river. But these are things that have been happening already – the current scenario that is.
What the future holds in the space of the river offering livelihood can be a plethora of activities where only imagination can be the limitation. Especially in the most touristy of Assam’s places, rafting, houseboat facilities, jet skiing activities, flying, helicopter tours, riverside eateries, yachting or simply the option of living on the river are only some of the examples that can be explored with due government policy in place. The whole point here is to make the most of the awesome possibilities that Brahmaputra River offers and optimum utilisation of the same to foster decent livelihood for people of the state of Assam.
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