An estimated three million people are living precarious life in over two thousand char villages on mighty Brahmaputra and its tributaries speared over fourteen districts in Assam. Chars or riverine areas are almond shaped islands surrounded by river water; temporary in nature due to annual flood and devastating erosion. Char is formed out of the sand and silt deposition caused by flood; hence the height of the char is always lesser than the highest flood level. This makes the char life more prone to annual floods starting from May and continues to September. Almost half of the year, the char remains detached from the mainland hampering every walks of life including health, education and livelihoods. Government conducted two socioeconomic surveys in 1992-93 and 2002-03, the later study revealed that the literacy rate in char is merely 19 percent. Most shocking revelation is literacy rate declined in the char areas of four districts between the two studies. The recent data of 2011 census also substantiate the same trend, in one of the chars village called Uttar Gudhani where Jhai Foundation is working has less than 7 percent literacy rate and female literacy rate merely 2 percent. As far as poverty and hunger is concerned, nearly 68 percent of the char dwellers fall under BPL category. When the percentage of BPL population declined in Assam as a whole, percentage of BPL population increased in char areas.
Jhai Foundation has developed a comprehensive char development model to sensitize the duty bearers, making the char community aware about their rights and entitlement and promoting disaster resilient activities to make the char community adaptable to increasing threat and vulnerability of climate change. This long term programme called Char Development Programme is being implemented in three char villages of Barpeta district in association with Centre for Equity Studies and Association of India’s Development. The programme has four major components i.e. i) Health, ii) Education, iii) Livelihoods and iv) Disaster Risk Reduction and shall strive to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals #1, #2, #3, #4, #6 and #13.
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