GUWAHATI, Sept 20 - The proposed dredging of the Brahmaputra bed for the limited purpose of facilitating a navigational channel should not be construed as a measure to reduce flood and erosion. The channel will fall far short of fulfilling the need of reducing flood and erosion caused by the river.
This was the observation of the participants of a seminar organised by the Assam Science Society recently at its Khanapara office on the problems of the Brahmaputra and their solutions.
It was the considered view of the participants of the seminar that dredging should not be thought of and considered as the single component of solution of the problem of flood and erosion in the Brahmaputra basin. A comprehensive and lasting solution spanning over years and decades will involve a combination of different technical measures at different points in the flow regime of the river Brahmaputra. The permanent solution requires a rigorous study of all the vital scientific characteristics of the river basin.
Such a study, with the objective of ensuring ecological balance of the entire basin, should invariably consider effects on aquatic ecosystems of the river and ecosystem services, riverine fauna like fishes and dolphin, water quality, groundwater table of river bank areas, livelihoods of fishermen, riverine islands (chars and chaporis) and their inhabitants, riverine land use of local people, land acquisition, riparian culture, possible rehabilitation, resettlement and outmigration of affected people, etc.
In the absence of such a scientific study, the talk of express highways on the banks of the river Brahmaputra is without any basis. Any decision to go for large intervention on the Brahmaputra should be taken based on the results of such a study only, the participants said.
The project proposal, when prepared, needs to undergo the same process of getting clearance from the riparian people all along the length of the river, from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and other Government authorities which are applicable to any major intervention under the Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2006 and its subsequent amendments till 2017.
A comprehensive action plan to mitigate flood and erosion of the river Brahmaputra by enhancing its water-holding capacity should evaluate measures like high-value plantation, rainwater harvesting to enrich pond economy, multipurpose storage reservoirs with low-height dams to generate power, creation of a canal system to link up the reservoirs, maintaining enough flood plains near the banks, reforming agricultural practices where needed, they said.
Moreover, Assam Government should formulate a clear strategy for forging collaboration with the neighbouring States for sustainable river management. Such a strategy must take into consideration regular communication about river status, joint flood forecasting and flood early warning, silt retention, joint efforts to keep healthy ecosystem of upper catchment areas, exchange of hydrological data, collective scientific study of catchment areas and river hydrology, collaborative impact assessment of interventions on rivers, etc.
The Assam Government should also endeavour to formulate a Joint River Management Policy with the neighbouring States, including mitigation of erosion as a principal component of such a policy.
The inaugural session of the seminar was presided over by Dr Soneswar Sarma, former Professor of Gauhati University (GU), and president of the Society. The purpose of the seminar was explained by Basanta Deka. The keynote address was delivered by noted Brahmaputra expert Prof Dulal Chandra Goswami.
The technical session of the seminar was conducted by Dr Barindra Kumar Sarma, former Professor of Physics of GU and Dr Chandan Mahanta, Professor of IIT Guwahati (IIT-G).
Dr Arup Sarma, Professor of Civil Engineering IIT-G, Pradip Pujari, former engineer of Brahmaputra Board, Dr Sarada Prasad Sarma, former Professor of Botany of GU, Ratul Sarma former Commissioner and Secretary, Water Resource Department, Assam, Dr Partha Das, Head, Water, Climate and Hazards, Aaranyak, Dr Abani Bhagabati, Professor of Geography, GU, presented papers on the issue.