Assam’s Majuli becomes India’s first island district

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Majuli a river island in the Brahmaputra River, Assam having an area of 400 square kilometre has been approved by the state cabinet as a Full-fledged district. With this it becomes India’s first island district. Earlier it was sub-division of Jorhat district.

Majuli had a total area of 1,250 square kilometres (483 sq mi) but now having lost significantly to erosion it had an area of only 352 square kilometres (136 sq mi). Majuli has shrunk as the river surrounding it has grown.

Geographical occurrence:

The island is formed by the Brahmaputra river system.  It is the world’s largest mid river delta (island) system. It was formed due to course changes by the river Brahmaputra and its tributaries, mainly the Lohit.  The island is about 200 km east from Guwahati. Majuli is the abode of the Assamese neo-Vaisnavite culture.

Inhabitants:

  • The dwellers of Majuli are mostly Mising tribes from Arunachal Pradesh who immigrated here centuries ago. Languages spoken are Mising, Assamese, and Deori.
  • The island has 144 villages with a population of over 150,000. The only mode of association to the outside world is through a ferry service which operates six times a day. 

Vaishnavite cultural centre:

  • The island has been the hub of Assamese neo-Vaishnavite culture, initiated around 15th century by the revered Assamese saint Srimanta Sankardeva and his disciple Madhavdeva.
  • The island had some 65 satras (monasteries adhering) to Vaishnavism. But large numbers of them were relocated to the mainland after being washed away. The main surviving satras include Garamurh, Dakhinpat, Kamalabari, Auniati, Bengenaati and Shamaguri.

The slow death of Majuli Island​:

  • In 1853, the total area of Majuli was 1,150 sq km and about 33% of this landmass has been eroded in the latter half of 20th century. Since 1991, over 35 villages have been washed away.
  • Surveys show that in 15–20 years from now, Majuli would cease to exist. To save the island, the Union Government of India has sanctioned Rs. 250 crores (US $55 million) for the protection of the island.

You can make a change:

Jadav Payeng a local environmental activist in Majuli has planted a 550 hectare forest, known as Molai Forest to combat erosion on the island. Much of the island was barren sandbars that were vulnerable to erosion, but thanks to Payeng's afforestation, has become a lush forest. The forest has become habitat for animals including elephants, tigers, deer, and vultures.

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