GUWAHATI, Sept 14 - In a development that may have serious ramifications for river management in the State, a 2013 decision of the Water Resources Department (WRD) for a Rs 22-crore Asian Development Bank (ADB)-supported six-storied state-of-the-art river research and management institute for management of rivers, water and land in the State, has now been revised in favour of a water training academy, along with the facilities of a convention centre.
This development has come to the fore at a time when the river experts here are deploring the fact that there are striking inadequacies of data on the Brahmaputra and its tributaries.
The 2013 decision was adopted with the aim at replacing the WRD�s outmoded River Research Station at Beltola with the said institute so that it could help the State government and its agencies to understand the processes that control the behaviour of the Brahmaputra and the Barak and their tributaries better and to take up capacity building in this area.
This institute was envisaged as a centre of excellence for knowledge and technology for management of rivers, water and land in the North-east India under the name and style of �Assam Water Research and Management Institute� (AWRMI). The 2013 decision said that the idea for setting up a centre of excellence evolved over time and has now taken shape as a government policy with the ADB support. It was envisioned also as a WRD associate organisation.
A cabinet memorandum (file no. WR (G) 78/2013) was also accepted by the State government on the conferment of functional autonomy to this institute by creating a society.
Developing human resources (both in-house and in related agencies) to the point of world class expertise was one of its major missions.
It was sought to be developed in the model of the Bangladesh Institute of Water Modelling (IWM), Centre for Environmental and Geographic Information Systems (CEGIS) and Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre (FFWC), Sri Lanka�s Lanka Hydraulic Institute Ltd (LHI). These are all self-sustaining centres of excellence of South Asia. They had initially received backing from their respective governments and donors. Later on, such supports were withdrawn after a suitable institutional basis was created to make them self-sustaining.
On March 17, 2015, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal laid the foundation of the Assam Water Centre to house the AWRMI.
But, the Flood and River Erosion Management Agency, Assam (FREMAA), which was authorised by the WRD to construct the building of the AWRMI by utilising the ADB funds, had in a resolution of its 19th executive body meeting said, �As the area of the building is quite huge, so it is evident that a lot of maintenance cost in the form of building maintenance, electricity bill, security charges, floor keepers, lift maintenance, lawn maintenance, gardening/gardener charges etc., will have to be incurred.
�In order to meet up these costs, a revenue generation model as discussed is being proposed. FREMAA may keep the required area for its own office premise and remaining area may be allowed to be used as a convention centre comprising conference rooms, meeting banquet halls etc. We can create facilities and generate revenue on the lines of NEDFi,� it said.
It may be mentioned here that the FREMAA is a special purpose vehicle created by the government of Assam under the WRD to implement the ADB-funded flood and erosion management project in the State.