As Guwahati continues to be affected by floods every year, experts suggest an inclusive plan to save the city from floods.
River Bharalu needs not only maintenance but it should be a part of holistic flood control plan, stated eminent environmental scientist Dr Dulal Chandra Goswami.
“What the authorities have been doing are maintenance works and the flood mitigation measures have been taken only as disaster management,” the former Head of the Department of Environmental Science, Gauhati University, said.
“Until and unless an inclusive plan is implemented crores of rupees will go into water,” said Dr BP Duarah, Professor at the Department of Geology, Gauhati University.
Suggesting an inclusive plan for the city, Dr Duarah said, “Otherwise some areas will be dead and more areas will be degraded like Anil Nagar and Nabin Nagar.”
When the rainy season starts, the Guwahatians turn their look into river Bharalu flowing through the city of Guwahati which has turned into a dead channel due to relentless pollution decades back.
Crores of rupees have been wasted in the name of Bharalu cleaning without any measure to stop garbage and sewage into the river. Guwahatians have witnessed floods and water-logging problems since long. Piles of garbage stored by the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) workers by the sides of drains fall into Bharalu with flood waters.
“Guwahatians will not get any respite from floods in the near future, because no plan has emerged to tackle the basic problem till now,” said Dr Goswami.
Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) claims that it has spent Rs 8.97 crore in flood mitigation works in 2017. The GMC also reveals, it spent around Rs 6.8 crore to clean and de-silt the major river channels in the city in 2017.
“Five major river channels of the city (Bharalu, Bahini, Lakhimijan, Basistha and Mora Bharalu) were cleaned this year,” said GMC sources adding that even masonry guard walls worth Rs 13.78 lakh were constructed near some river channels.
According to GMC, Rs 1.73 crore was spent to clean and de-silt the Bharalu river this year. A total of Rs 1.08 crore was spent to clean Bahini river, Rs 84.30 lakh to clean Lakhimijan river, Rs 1.39 crore on Basistha river and Rs 13.78 lakh was spent to clean the Mora Bharalu river.
However, despite spending of crores of rupees, things have remained as gloomy as ever.
Every year, floods in Guwahati claim many deaths. In 2013, a youth was washed away by flood water and this was followed by two more such deaths the next year. Following this, the then Chief Minister, Tarun Gogoi, had formed a committee spearheaded by Additional Chief Secretary, MGVK Bhanu, to address the problem which bore no result.
The new BJP-led government informed the State Assembly on February 14, 2018 that the Centre has approved Rs 2,293.35 crore for 11 projects under Guwahati Smart City project.
A sum of Rs 488 crore has been approved for development of banks of the Mora Bharalu river followed by Rs 434 crore for comprehensive development of the Bharalu river which functions as a natural storm water drainage for the city.
Moreover, Rs 250 crore and Rs 212 crore have been approved for development of Deepor Beel, which is a Ramsar site, and Silsako Beel, two important natural water bodies.
Both the water bodies are severely encroached, leading to artificial floods in the city in the past few years.
There was a time when the Bharalu ran pristine down from the Meghalaya hills into Guwahati, fed with water from other sources on its way. One such natural drain is the Bahini River that originates. Guwahati receives rainwater in huge volumes from the Meghalaya hills that add to the water logging problem. Given the volume of rainwater it receives, the main storm-water carrying channel—the Bharalu .
Bharalu river in Assam once provided potable water to thousands of people living on its banks. It was also a source of variety of fish and other aquatic flora and fauna for the people.Another major water stream, Bahini originates from Deepor Beel and passing through Silsako Beel and then ultimately falls into the Brahmaputra at the Chandrapur area. Both the channels are highly polluted and don’t have any aquatic life form along the stream.
According to journalist Chandan Kumar Duarah, Guwahati Refinery has also been responsible for pollution of Bharalu river. A channel that carries oil pollutant is still linked with Bharalu and the degradation of the river started decades back.
Dr B P Duarah strongly suggests formation of Greater Guwahati Drainage Authority to save the city and for its environmental bright future.