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Rising pollution in Guwahati: time for collective action

By The Assam Tribune
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GUWAHATI, known for its rich cultural heritage and robust infrastructure, is emerging as India�s gateway to the East. Today, it is no more a city in the backyard, rather a city of lights, colour and hope. The Union government last year qualified Guwahati from among the Northeastern cities�in the list of first 20 urban areas that will be developed as Smart Cities. It got included in the list with a rank of 17, meaning it is the hub of the entire Northeast for education, trade tourism and health. Now, the united Northeast can claim their rise to fame with the rise in stature of Guwahati.

However, in the process of rapid industrialisation, this beautiful city has started bearing the brunt. A recent report of World Health Organisation (WHO) on pollution data speaks of a miserable state of affairs here. The air pollution is rated as high, water pollution as very high, garbage disposal dissatisfaction as very high, and other parameters also in the same category. This fast-growing city stands at a junction where it can tread either on a path of modern industrial development, which will result in excessive black carbon�pollution, or on a path of restoring its past serenity and societal bonhomie, which will restrain it from accumulating the material riches.

It is equally up to the local people to decide the fate of their city, alongside the State and national administration.

Today, the narrow main roads and dingy byelanes in the city are getting overrun by the increasing number of private motor vehicles. In August 2015, the Gauhati High Court had given a verdict in favour of the petitioner, Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (Siam), for the sale of all vehicles in the State that have undergone crash and emission tests conforming to the requirements and standards set by the Bureau of Indian Standards. Prior to this relaxing judgement for all carmakers, the Assam State Transport Department made a decision to ban the sale and registration of popular cars such as Maruti Alto, Swift, Hyundai EON and i10 hatchback. The department cited a court ruling that said cars must meet crash test norms conforming to the European New Car Assessment Programme, which are presently not applicable in India. The judgement has made it easy for the newly rich people to hit the city roads with their fancy cars.

Of late, there has been a rise of new mafias in the city. Yes, they are no other than the private water sellers! Their unholy nexus with some of the corrupt officials of the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) is depriving the residents of the city of a life-giving and life-sustaining resource.

On the other hand, the water supplied by GMC is infrequent and insufficient, and falls short of permissible drinking standard. It is a common roadside scene to see city dwellers queuing up and jostling with one another to fill their buckets under public taps. However, it will be wrong to ascribe the blame for all of these to the present State government for the plight have been as such for many years now, but only getting worse every day.

Despite the existence of many environmental laws, the hill areas and forest areas of Guwahati are fast receding as more people are illegally attempting to occupy small plots of land by cutting down trees. The agony is this is happening right in front of eyes of Forest Department of Assam. Deforestation causes increased landslide risk, soil erosion, loss of soil nutrients, and release of carbon stores. Even according to the State Level Environment Impact Assessment Authority, the main factors responsible for pollution in Guwahati city today are: cutting of hills and road construction. Another major reason behind rising environmental degradation in recent years is due to the setting up of large manufacturing industries- many of which do not meet the environment protection standards and release excessive pollutants into the atmosphere.

Today the base of the river Bharalu, a tributary of the Brahmaputra that runs through the heart of Guwahati, is rising rapidly. This is happening due to illegal releases and accumulation of wastes coming from the household disposal, cutting of hills and industrial wastes from different parts of the city. This is steadily demolishing the aquatic ecosystem system of the river Brahmaputra. For we know that life-supporting ingredients, like nutrients, organisms, water, air, etc., can easily move in and out of ecosystems. Hence, our terrestrial ecosystems will also equally suffer when the water bodies become polluted. Due to disposal of wastes to the various water-bodies inside and adjacent to Guwahati, the larger ecosystem of Assam is getting demolished day by day.

The situation in Guwahati is definitely alarming. However, it is not the time to panic, but to work collectively and judiciously to tackle the rising problem of urban pollution. All concerned parties should endeavour to efficiently execute provisions under the International Environment Law (IEL), which ranges from 1992 Rio Declaration to 2015 Paris Agreement and 2016 Marrakesh Agreement, alongwith the national protection environmental laws, such as the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, the Environment Protection Act, 1986, Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991 and the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules 2000, and so on. Further, the State Pollution Control Board of Assam should ensure that on-the-ground monitoring and evaluation activities for environment protection happen to the stipulated standards. In this respect, creating awareness among different classes of people, particularly in Guwahati, is the first and foremost necessity of the day.

In the eighteenth century, London was a �smoky and dirty city�. However, with time Londoners turned their city into one of the most scenic and pristine metro cities in the world. Similarly, we, the residents of Guwahati, and the local government should endeavour to restore its beauty, lest our future generations would suffer for our mistakes!

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Rising pollution in Guwahati: time for collective action

GUWAHATI, known for its rich cultural heritage and robust infrastructure, is emerging as India�s gateway to the East. Today, it is no more a city in the backyard, rather a city of lights, colour and hope. The Union government last year qualified Guwahati from among the Northeastern cities�in the list of first 20 urban areas that will be developed as Smart Cities. It got included in the list with a rank of 17, meaning it is the hub of the entire Northeast for education, trade tourism and health. Now, the united Northeast can claim their rise to fame with the rise in stature of Guwahati.

However, in the process of rapid industrialisation, this beautiful city has started bearing the brunt. A recent report of World Health Organisation (WHO) on pollution data speaks of a miserable state of affairs here. The air pollution is rated as high, water pollution as very high, garbage disposal dissatisfaction as very high, and other parameters also in the same category. This fast-growing city stands at a junction where it can tread either on a path of modern industrial development, which will result in excessive black carbon�pollution, or on a path of restoring its past serenity and societal bonhomie, which will restrain it from accumulating the material riches.

It is equally up to the local people to decide the fate of their city, alongside the State and national administration.

Today, the narrow main roads and dingy byelanes in the city are getting overrun by the increasing number of private motor vehicles. In August 2015, the Gauhati High Court had given a verdict in favour of the petitioner, Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (Siam), for the sale of all vehicles in the State that have undergone crash and emission tests conforming to the requirements and standards set by the Bureau of Indian Standards. Prior to this relaxing judgement for all carmakers, the Assam State Transport Department made a decision to ban the sale and registration of popular cars such as Maruti Alto, Swift, Hyundai EON and i10 hatchback. The department cited a court ruling that said cars must meet crash test norms conforming to the European New Car Assessment Programme, which are presently not applicable in India. The judgement has made it easy for the newly rich people to hit the city roads with their fancy cars.

Of late, there has been a rise of new mafias in the city. Yes, they are no other than the private water sellers! Their unholy nexus with some of the corrupt officials of the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) is depriving the residents of the city of a life-giving and life-sustaining resource.

On the other hand, the water supplied by GMC is infrequent and insufficient, and falls short of permissible drinking standard. It is a common roadside scene to see city dwellers queuing up and jostling with one another to fill their buckets under public taps. However, it will be wrong to ascribe the blame for all of these to the present State government for the plight have been as such for many years now, but only getting worse every day.

Despite the existence of many environmental laws, the hill areas and forest areas of Guwahati are fast receding as more people are illegally attempting to occupy small plots of land by cutting down trees. The agony is this is happening right in front of eyes of Forest Department of Assam. Deforestation causes increased landslide risk, soil erosion, loss of soil nutrients, and release of carbon stores. Even according to the State Level Environment Impact Assessment Authority, the main factors responsible for pollution in Guwahati city today are: cutting of hills and road construction. Another major reason behind rising environmental degradation in recent years is due to the setting up of large manufacturing industries- many of which do not meet the environment protection standards and release excessive pollutants into the atmosphere.

Today the base of the river Bharalu, a tributary of the Brahmaputra that runs through the heart of Guwahati, is rising rapidly. This is happening due to illegal releases and accumulation of wastes coming from the household disposal, cutting of hills and industrial wastes from different parts of the city. This is steadily demolishing the aquatic ecosystem system of the river Brahmaputra. For we know that life-supporting ingredients, like nutrients, organisms, water, air, etc., can easily move in and out of ecosystems. Hence, our terrestrial ecosystems will also equally suffer when the water bodies become polluted. Due to disposal of wastes to the various water-bodies inside and adjacent to Guwahati, the larger ecosystem of Assam is getting demolished day by day.

The situation in Guwahati is definitely alarming. However, it is not the time to panic, but to work collectively and judiciously to tackle the rising problem of urban pollution. All concerned parties should endeavour to efficiently execute provisions under the International Environment Law (IEL), which ranges from 1992 Rio Declaration to 2015 Paris Agreement and 2016 Marrakesh Agreement, alongwith the national protection environmental laws, such as the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, the Environment Protection Act, 1986, Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991 and the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules 2000, and so on. Further, the State Pollution Control Board of Assam should ensure that on-the-ground monitoring and evaluation activities for environment protection happen to the stipulated standards. In this respect, creating awareness among different classes of people, particularly in Guwahati, is the first and foremost necessity of the day.

In the eighteenth century, London was a �smoky and dirty city�. However, with time Londoners turned their city into one of the most scenic and pristine metro cities in the world. Similarly, we, the residents of Guwahati, and the local government should endeavour to restore its beauty, lest our future generations would suffer for our mistakes!