GUWAHATI, June 25 � The State government or the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samity (KMSS) may find it hard to accept, but probing eyes in space have revealed the manner in which Guwahati�s natural landscape has been degraded by human intervention in recent times.
Embarrassingly for the Congress, a major shift in land use pattern in the city occurred during a period the party was in power.
While the issue of land use is now being utilized for political gains, data from satellite images suggests, that the city�s most important features have undergone drastic and irreparable changes.
In the year 1998, there was 20.14 sq km under dense forest cover in the city. By 2010 it shrunk to 7.84 sq km. The effect on biodiversity cannot be overlooked, with the city losing a range of flora and fauna, some of them endemic and rare.
The status of marshy lands is no less a matter of concern. In 1998, satellite imagery recorded 20.25 sq km of marshy lands spread across various parts of the city. In 2002 it was down to 17.79 sq km. Last year the area covered by marshes covered barely 12.11 sq km. Marshy lands and wetlands have been encroached not just by the landless, but by reputed institutions and influential people.
While the district administration is well aware of the encroachments, there has not been any corrective action so far.
The land use change in the hilly areas has been evident in the data gathered by satellites. In 1998, the total hilly residential area was around 18.10 sq km, which grew to 22.36 sq km in 2002. It expanded to 23.71 sq km in 2005, and proliferated to 27.45 sq km in 2010.
Many of the hilly residential areas have spread after destruction of green cover, which has contributed to more surface run off and clogging of the city�s drainage network.
It is inconceivable that the district administration and the State government did not know of the situation, but with an eye on the Assembly elections in 2011, no action was taken to evict illegal settlers on the hills.
Another revealing picture related to land use changes is about the loss of agricultural land and grassland in the city. In 2010 it stood at 7.72 sq km, whereas it was 29.07 sq km in 1998. Along with land where forest cover was lost, these areas have been transformed into builtup areas.
Those who made the data available to The Assam Tribune pointed to a sharp increase of built up areas in and around the city, and that has primarily come at the cost of green cover and wetlands.