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Ex-Union minister calls for dredging of Brahmaputra

By Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, Sept 20 - Former Union minister Bedabrata Barua today said that the bed of River Brahmaputra should be dredged scientifically to solve the vexed problems of flood and erosion caused by the river. He further said that he would write to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requesting his intervention in this matter.

Addressing a press conference here this afternoon, the former Union minister, who was close to renowned water resources expert and former Union Water Resources Minister late Dr KL Rao, said that Dr Rao had suggested dredging at the confluence points of six major northern tributaries of the Brahmaputra like the Subansiri and the Dhansiri (North) as a measure to control flood and check erosion caused by the Brahmaputra.

Dr Rao, who had solved the problem of flood in the Tennessee Valley of the USA, had reasoned that the northern tributaries of the Brahmaputra deposit huge quantities of silt at their mouths and this silt raises the Brahmaputra bed, pushing the Brahmaputra channel southward. The rise in the Brahmaputra bed was at the root of the problem of flood, while the migration of the course of the Brahmaputra towards the south bank was causing erosion on this bank, Dr Rao had observed.

He suggested that dredging should be carried out in the Brahmaputra to solve the above problems and initially, six points should be selected for conducting dredging operations on a trial basis.

There were two dredgers available with the Union Government at that time and it was no problem convincing the then Prime Minister of the country, late Indira Gandhi, to send the two dredgers to Assam for the purpose. But since the dredgers were meant for Kerala, Dr Rao and Barua had to talk to the then Chief Minister of Kerala, late EMS Namboodiripad. The consent of Namboodiripad was also obtained and one of the dredgers was sent to Guwahati, while the other was kept stationed at Calcutta (now Kolkata). This was in 1973.

But the then Assam Chief Minister, late Sarat Chandra Sinha, did not use the dredgers, each of which was bought at the cost of Rs 20 crore by the Union Government. The dredgers were kept idle for one year and then sent back, said Barua.

Barua said that experts of world class competence should be engaged to excavate the Brahmaputra bed now with an aim to solve the twin problems of flood and erosion caused by the river. If done scientifically, dredging will enable the Brahmaputra to activate its self-dredging capacity. Scientifically carried out dredging operations can never be detrimental to the interests of the riparian people and the river as well, he asserted.

Barua was Union Deputy Minister for Company Affairs between 1971 and 1976 and Union Minister of State for External Affairs for eight months in 1979.

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