Geophysical Features

Assam, situated at the foothills of the eastern Himalayas, is the largest State in northeast India and lies in the middle reach of the river Brahmaputra and Barak. The State accounts for nearly 2.4% of India‘s total geographical area The Brahmaputra basin covers an area of 5,80,000 sq. km out of which 70,634 sq. km falls within Assam. The land has uneven topography, full of hills, plains and rivers. The State is bordering Arunachal Pradesh in the east, West Bengal, Meghalaya, Bangladesh in the west, Arunachal Pradesh, Bhutan in the north and Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Tripura in the south. Its longitude lies at 88.250E to 96.00E and latitude at 24.50N to 28.00N and temperature varies from 60C to 380C. The humidity that is brought into Assam by the southwest monsoons, shower an average annual rainfall of 120 inches or more on the Brahmaputra valley and the surrounding region. The monsoons are Assam's life line; creating a bio-diversity that can compete with the equatorial rain-forests (State profile, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, 2009). The topography and the warm and humid climate are conducive to plant and vegetation growth. Assam is home to 51 forest and sub-forest types, and the confluence of diverse patterns of vegetation (Assam Human Development Report, 2003).

The Brahmaputra River flows through Assam from east to west over a length of approximately 650 kilometers. Its main branch originates in the Tibetan plateau, flowing from west to east as the Tsangpo River, and then turns south through the eastern Himalaya as the Dihang River to enter Assam, where it is joined by other branches to form the Brahmaputra. The Barak River rises in the Indian state of Nagaland at an elevation of approximately 2,300 meters and passes through the Manipur Hills of Manipur state over a river length of nearly 400 kilometers. It then flows generally westward from Lakhipur through the Cachar Plains region of Assam over a river length of approximately 130 kilometers to enter Bangladesh near Bhanga (NHC, Background paper, 2006). Each flood season, the Brahmaputra and its tributaries forsake their earlier channels to cut new swathes through the soil. As the water recedes, alluvial deposits remain in the river, giving rise to sandy islands. Some of these islands are very large, and the annually enriched soil has attracted cultivation and semi-permanent settlement. There is a distinct monsoon season in which a large part of the annual rainfall is concentrated. There are also two months of cyclonic activity preceding the monsoon, and rainfall at other times of the year as well.