GUWAHATI, Sept 7 - How sincere are the efforts of the government to tackle the recurrent flash floods in the city? The following instance of flip-flop is bound to lay bare the hollowness of all the tall claims made by Dispur.
In 2008, the Guwahati Development Department, after a �detailed inspection,� had issued an order (GDD 147/ 2008/11) directing demolition of 81 bridges/culverts constructed illegally on the River Bahini which were in �some way or the other impeding flow of monsoon water in the river�.
Five years later, Sarumatariya resident Debendra Narayan Deka, who had been fighting a lonely battle to save the river since 2007, filed an RTI to know the progress of the demolition works.
In the RTI reply dated December 26, 2013, the Guwahati Municipal Corporation stated that �demolishing works of 55 bridges/culverts were done as identified by the water resources department� and �records of 26 undemolished bridges/culverts were not available.�
�I went several times to the GMC. But every time it was a disappointment. They even could not give the list of the demolished bridges. One of the officers said �no reply is also a reply�. Finding no other way, I thought of going to the court in 2015. No one was there to support me. Thankfully my lawyers Ratul Goswami and MP Bhuyan took it as a social cause and I did not have to spend much,� Deka, now 73 years of age, told The Assam Tribune today.
Deka, a former ASEB employee, saw some ray of hope when the Gauhati High Court last week ordered demolition of the remaining 26 bridges.
�The order dated 17.6.2008 of the Government of Assam was never put to challenge by anyone, but sadly, it has not been fully implemented in letter and spirit by the authorities concerned. We, accordingly, in public interest, direct all the competent authorities of the Government of Assam to execute the order without any further delay and demolish the 26 illegally constructed bridges after giving a month�s notice to the interested parties,� a division bench of Chief Justice Ajit Singh and Justice Manojit Bhuyan said, also directing the authorities to maintain the official 8.5-metre width of the river all along the course.
The GDD demolition order was based on a report submitted by the water resources department, which identified 80 bridges responsible �for bottlenecks in the Bahini river�. The bridge constructed by the State Bank of India in front of its local head office at Dispur and the one constructed by NABARD were among those identified to be demolished.
The rear portion of Kushan Plaza and the front boundary wall of Assam Tea Warehouse, all located within stone�s throw from the Secretariat, �seem� to be in the bed of the Bahini, according to the water resources department report.
But for reasons unknown these structures never came under the scanner of the GMC, GDD or the district administration which have been making tall claims about their initiatives to check the city�s flash floods and spending crores on them.
�The Bahini has been heavily encroached, limiting its width to only five metres at places (original 8.5 metres). These structures have been responsible for the heavy flooding in the catchment areas during the floods,� Deka said.
The 8,400-metre Bahini originates in the Umtyanga region in Meghalaya and flows through Basistha, Rukminigaon and Hengerabari before joining the Bharalu near the State Zoo. It is a natural stormwater and a sewerage discharge drain.