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35 landslide-prone localities identified

By PRANJAL BHUYAN
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GUWAHATI, June 22 - With the south-west monsoon already covering the region and heavy rainfall already resulting in a number of landslides in the hilly areas of Guwahati, the local authorities have identified around 35 highly vulnerable localities from which families are to be evacuated.

However, officials admitted that the implementation of the evacuation plan will not be easy � not only because nobody is willing to leave their homes and shift to temporary shelters, but also because there is an apprehension that any forcible plan for moving residents of vulnerable locations will result not just in lengthy court litigations but allow political parties and other organisations to exploit the situation as well.

Many senior officials told this newspaper on the condition of anonymity that without sufficient political backing from the State government, the plan to evacuate around 350 highly vulnerable families residing in the sensitive zones will be extremely difficult.

�We have appealed to the residents of such locations to leave and we are ready to arrange shelter and temporary accommodation. However, not even one family has expressed willingness to move,� said a senior official.

He added, �So we are in a dilemma, as if caught between the devil and the deep sea. If there are any incidents of major slides and anybody gets hurt or killed, we will be blamed for not acting. And if we force people to move there will be allegations that we are resorting to forceful evacuation. And local bodies and the district administration can only exert its influence to a certain extent. We cannot go the whole way without backing of the executive.�

Last year, there were around half a dozen deaths in Guwahati due to landslides. So far, this monsoon season, there has been a number of minor slides and damage to some houses and properties, but no deaths or serious injuries. However, the rainy season has only just started and there is apprehension that the situation may worsen as the monsoon progresses.

Asked about the issue, Kamrup Metro Deputy Commissioner Dr M Angamuthu said that around 35 locations across the city have been identified as highly vulnerable and around 350 families are staying in such areas. �We have given them time till June 30 to shift. If any family fails to adhere to the timeline, we may have to take some serious steps to remove them. We cannot allow threat to the lives of people to hang over their heads,� he said.

He added that patrolling of vulnerable locations is being done regularly by civic staff with the help of members of NGOs.

�However, evacuation of some families in highly vulnerable locations can only be a temporary measure. We need long-term action plan for soil stabilisation and to allow vegetation to grow in hilly areas and to leave ample space for steady flow of water down the hill,� Dr Angamuthu said.

He said the district administration will study the planned MoU between the Soil Conservation Department and IIT Guwahati to tackle the menace of flash flood in Guwahati and give its input with regard to flood, erosion and landslide prevention.

Meanwhile, senior officials said that most of residents staying in the landslide-prone areas of Guwahati are encroachers who have occupied forest or government land.

�But try and remove them and within a few hours you will see all the political parties and other organisations jump into the fray to gain maximum mileage. They will charge the administration with acting in an authoritarian manner and heads will roll among our staff. The GMC, GMDA, district administration and other departments function under the State government and so we all will have to tread cautiously. If given a free hand and if we are ensured that there will be no political interference, we can evacuate not only the families vulnerable to landslides, but also all residents who have encroached land. But, will the political masters give us so much leeway?� said an official.

He added that earlier also, many such residents had approached courts and got stay orders from the judiciary to any plans to move them.

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35 landslide-prone localities identified

GUWAHATI, June 22 - With the south-west monsoon already covering the region and heavy rainfall already resulting in a number of landslides in the hilly areas of Guwahati, the local authorities have identified around 35 highly vulnerable localities from which families are to be evacuated.

However, officials admitted that the implementation of the evacuation plan will not be easy � not only because nobody is willing to leave their homes and shift to temporary shelters, but also because there is an apprehension that any forcible plan for moving residents of vulnerable locations will result not just in lengthy court litigations but allow political parties and other organisations to exploit the situation as well.

Many senior officials told this newspaper on the condition of anonymity that without sufficient political backing from the State government, the plan to evacuate around 350 highly vulnerable families residing in the sensitive zones will be extremely difficult.

�We have appealed to the residents of such locations to leave and we are ready to arrange shelter and temporary accommodation. However, not even one family has expressed willingness to move,� said a senior official.

He added, �So we are in a dilemma, as if caught between the devil and the deep sea. If there are any incidents of major slides and anybody gets hurt or killed, we will be blamed for not acting. And if we force people to move there will be allegations that we are resorting to forceful evacuation. And local bodies and the district administration can only exert its influence to a certain extent. We cannot go the whole way without backing of the executive.�

Last year, there were around half a dozen deaths in Guwahati due to landslides. So far, this monsoon season, there has been a number of minor slides and damage to some houses and properties, but no deaths or serious injuries. However, the rainy season has only just started and there is apprehension that the situation may worsen as the monsoon progresses.

Asked about the issue, Kamrup Metro Deputy Commissioner Dr M Angamuthu said that around 35 locations across the city have been identified as highly vulnerable and around 350 families are staying in such areas. �We have given them time till June 30 to shift. If any family fails to adhere to the timeline, we may have to take some serious steps to remove them. We cannot allow threat to the lives of people to hang over their heads,� he said.

He added that patrolling of vulnerable locations is being done regularly by civic staff with the help of members of NGOs.

�However, evacuation of some families in highly vulnerable locations can only be a temporary measure. We need long-term action plan for soil stabilisation and to allow vegetation to grow in hilly areas and to leave ample space for steady flow of water down the hill,� Dr Angamuthu said.

He said the district administration will study the planned MoU between the Soil Conservation Department and IIT Guwahati to tackle the menace of flash flood in Guwahati and give its input with regard to flood, erosion and landslide prevention.

Meanwhile, senior officials said that most of residents staying in the landslide-prone areas of Guwahati are encroachers who have occupied forest or government land.

�But try and remove them and within a few hours you will see all the political parties and other organisations jump into the fray to gain maximum mileage. They will charge the administration with acting in an authoritarian manner and heads will roll among our staff. The GMC, GMDA, district administration and other departments function under the State government and so we all will have to tread cautiously. If given a free hand and if we are ensured that there will be no political interference, we can evacuate not only the families vulnerable to landslides, but also all residents who have encroached land. But, will the political masters give us so much leeway?� said an official.

He added that earlier also, many such residents had approached courts and got stay orders from the judiciary to any plans to move them.