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AP Photos: Residents of India’s shrinking island struggle

October 8, 2018
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In this Aug. 7, 2018 photo, huts stand on stilts in Majuli, in the northeastern Indian state of Assam. Majuli is said to be one of the largest river islands in the world, surrounded by the fast-moving waters of the massive, though braided, Brahmaputra river. Official data shows that Majuli has shrunk to nearly two-thirds of its original size and the situation is getting worse with increasingly erratic weather patterns and bursts of intense rainfall. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

MAJULI, India (AP) — Their shores are protected by an embankment of sandbags and concrete barriers, but the residents of Majuli, a river island in India’s northeastern Assam state, are struggling to survive in a place that has been rapidly diminished by flooding and erosion.

Every year the monsoon floods the 522-square-kilometer (201-square-mile) island on the alluvial flood plains of the Brahmaputra, one of the largest rivers in Asia. In addition to fishing and boat-making, residents raise crops and cattle on the silty soil, relying on ferries to reach the nearest market for their goods, the small city of Jorhat.

The river laps at small huts and docks elevated with bamboo stilts. Formed by the convergence of the Brahmaputra and some of its anabranches, some experts have estimated that Majuli, the center of Assam’s neo-Vaishnavism, one of the major traditions of Hinduism, will be submerged by 2030.

Over a century, Majuli has lost nearly a third of its land mass, according to India’s Ministry of Water Resources.

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