The recent incessant rains turned the Guwahati city into a calamitous state. The normal life in the city came to a halt. The rainwater submerged most parts of the city. It is true that the rains were too heavy. But did it happen out of the blue? Or it is a regular thing? Isn’t it a familiar monsoon scene in Guwahati? Then why have we not been able to do anything about it all these years? Why are the problems of Guwahati turning more and more acute? Nature has endowed the city with everything. From hills, hillocks, rivers, rivulets to water bodies, Guwahati had everything. But who has turned these riches into our woes? Who is responsible for this?
Before we come to this let us go back to the Guwahati of Ahom and the British era. Where was Guwahati then? It was in Uzanbazar, Latasil, Happyvilla, Chenikuthi, Panbazar, Fancybazar, Machkhowa and Bharalu. Then there were the highlands and foothills of Guwahati scattered all around the town. The Guwahati of Ahom and the British era was well planned. Roads were broad and laid straight. Even now these places are never flooded by rainwater.
Here someone may question the comparison of the present Guwahati with the old one because of the size of the population then and now. Truly so. It is natural that with the passage of time population of a city will grow. A city must be planned in a manner so that it can accommodate its growing needs. This is the responsibility of the people who are concerned with the planning of the city.
Now Guwahati is not only the capital of Assam it is also the gateway to the entire Northeast. This is the hub of education, health, commercial and administrative activities of the region. The infrastructure of the city must proportionately grow with the increase of its population.
Again when a city expands it must provide for all kinds of people–rich and poor. The old Guwahati was on the high lands. It was surrounded by fields, hills, rivers, rivulets and wetlands. When it rained most of the rainwater percolated to the ground and the remaining flowed down to the fields and wetlands. But now Guwahati is filled with houses from one end to the other. Private and public constructions have covered all the landmass of Guwahati. Places have been occupied legally and illegally.
While poor people are doing it just for a shed and shelter the rich are doing it for moneymaking. And there are no rules and regulations. Anybody can do anything here. Occasionally dwellings of poor people are demolished. But nobody can do anything to the rich. The deforested hills can no longer hold the rainwater and there are no open fields and wetlands where the rainwater can flow. Waters cannot run through streams and rivulets to the rivers as they are all clogged. The rivers have also lost their water-bearing capacity accumulating heaps of garbage. As it is the shape of the city is like a bowl. So where will the rainwater go when it rains heavenly and incessantly?
Who is responsible for this calamity in Guwahati? Mainly three quarters are responsible for the problems of Guwahati. Do the citizens of Guwahati who are rushing here all the time think of their neighbours and the future of Guwahati while building their houses? Why are we so selfish? And who are the number one culprits? Undoubtedly, the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC), the Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA) and the government of Assam. Why have they not been able to solve and control the problems of Guwahati all these years? Why are things turning from bad to worse day by day? Who takes all the decisions for Guwahati?
One fine morning someone thinks that the Judges’ field should be made unbound for the common man. Then they closed the road between the Judges’ field and the Nehru Park. Someone somewhere thought that there should be some foot flyovers at various places of Guwahati and there came the foot overbridges and flyovers. Someone thought let there be more flyovers in the city and the flyovers come up. And now they are saying that there would be an eight-lane highway from Guwahati to Jagiroad.
Who is doing all this and for whose interest? And what about us the citizens? Don’t we have anything to do with this city? Late Saurav Kumar Chaliha, one of the most distinguished authors once said: “Guwahati is a beautiful city and Beautiful things shouldn’t be defiled”
Paresh Malakar is Editor-in-Chief, Northeast Now Assamese.