GUWAHATI, Aug 1 - It�s around 4 pm. Arpita � a Hengerabari resident working with a travel agency at Athgaon � gets a call from her mother. �It�s beginning to rain. You should head home,� her mother says. Twenty-four-year-old Arpita is immediately reminded of the ordeal she had with gushing waters on Hengerabari road just recently and she rushes to wrap up her remaining work.
Once a sprawling crop-field, the now concretised Hengerabari area is frequently facing the fury of flash floods � though not as alarming as in areas like Anil Nagar and Nabin Nagar � of late, leaving the locals worried that if long-term measures are not put in place, the area � Dispur�s backyard � would turn into another Anil Nagar or Nabin Nagar sooner or later.
�The drains are unable to bear the load anymore. The water from the hills overflows the drains and spills into the roads,� says Anup Sharma, a trader who has been living in the area for half a century now.
�The root of the problem lies in human interference with Nature. People are cutting down the hills and building homes there. All the mud and debris generated from these activities are coming down and clogging the natural and man-made drains in the city,� adds Sharma as he points to the settlements in the Nabanagar hills overlooking the Public Health Engineering office.
Recalls Sharma: �A quarter century ago, there were only four villages in the entire Hengerabari area � Hengerabari, Forest Gate, Club and Borbari. There were some twenty to thirty families in each village. Most of the area was a cropland which used to absorb the entire water flowing down the hills. The entire area and even the hills are being concretised now. Where will the water flow? You need a long-term plan to prevent an impending disaster.�
During heavy rains, some low-lying shops near the PHE office have to down their shutters in the wake of water-logging.
Besides important offices like the PHE and Directorate of Health Services, the headquarters of the ruling BJP is located in the area.
Another prominent trader of the area who did not wish to be named called for setting up silt chambers in the area to prevent the recurrence of flash floods. �As an immediate step silt chambers can be set up. You need to stop the mud and other debris from blocking the drains,� he says.
The Bahini rivulet which flows through the area is getting shallower by the day despite efforts by the district administration and Guwahati Municipal Corporation to dredge it occasionally.
Some senior citizens say a move by the authorities to divert a drain � which earlier used to run from the Upper Hengerabari area to the Downtown Hospital area � was diverted towards the main Hengerabari-Ganeshguri road some years back, following which the problem of flash floods became more severe.
On its part, the Guwahati Municipal Corporation has been clearing the drains occasionally. But their efforts have also come under scanner, with allegations that the workers often heap the mud taken out from the drains along the roadside for too long and after a smart shower it eventually finds its way into the drain again.
Perhaps it is time for the government to wake up to yet another looming disaster in the capital city.