The primary reasons for artificial flood in Guwahati is the massive exodus of people from the semi-urban and rural areas to cities looking for better opportunities for jobs, trade & commerce, better health care, better education, better transportation, overall better amenities, ease of living, to name a few. But this phenomenon, mostly unregulated, is one of the main reasons for the many urban malaises inflicting Guwahati.
The most talked-about of them recently is artificial flood due to rains which are not synonymous only with Guwahati. It’s happening across the country and even the metros aren’t fully equipped to handle this. It’s not the frequent occurrences but how the effects of artificial flooding are getting amplified with each passing year is something that not just the governments, but the society at large must dwell on, ponder, and do something collectively before it’s too late.
Guwahati has experienced lesser rainfall so far this year as compared to the other parts of the state/region. But the flood images that emerge even after a brief downpour of 15 minutes of fully merged/submerged main roads, lanes, bye lanes, houses in many areas of the city are not just distressing but extremely embarrassing given that it’s touted as the ‘Gateway to NE India’.
Here’s a look at some of the major factors responsible for this mess and artificial flood are
Ever increasing population: The population of Guwahati has seen an exponential YOY rise since independence. From a mere 43000 in 1950, it has swelled to a frightening 11.54 lacs as of 2022. Unfortunately, the sharp rise hasn’t been in line with a parallel infrastructure expansion of the city to shelter this ever-growing population. The city’s holding up way more occupants than it can sustain. With the flash floods wreaking havoc, it’s becoming more and more evident now and unless some drastic steps are taken, the day when this city remains no longer livable, isn’t far.
Rapid Urbanization: The city has witnessed rapid urbanization over the last two decades in the form of uncontrolled mushrooming of real estate, new road building that has disturbed the wetlands and the drainage channels in the city. Little concern was shown for natural environment in the process, the severe effects of which are showing up now.
The Narengi-Six Mile road construction is one such glaring example where the Bondajan channel was obstructed due to which flood water accumulates in the area that never happened earlier. Massive immigration from various parts of the Northeast to Guwahati and the need to accommodate the burgeoning population are the reasons behind the unplanned expansion of the city that’s brought such a significant change in its overall demography.
Encroachment and Deforestation: The rapid and unplanned expansion of the city has attracted a large population of the more economically weaker section into the city for work. Owing to their financial susceptibilities, this section mostly occupies habitats in and around the eco sensitive wetlands, forests and hills surrounding the city.
Human presence leads to wide scale deforestation that further leads to loosening of soil and is a crucial factor for the heavy siltation in the city’s drains and low-lying areas during heavy rains. The area of ‘Deepor Beel’, one of the important drainage basins of the city has shrunk from 4000 hectares fifty years ago to 500 hectares today owing to encroachment. Once you join the pieces together, the massive flooding the city’s experiencing these days becomes a no-brainer.
Garbage dumping in the drains: A vast majority of the city’s populace have become habitual offenders of throwing trash either on the streets or into the drains. It makes you wonder if they’re ignorant or even aware that the function of the drainage system is to provide a passage to rain and storm water into the wetlands and not act as a waste repository. Now the moot point, ‘Is the government truly responsible for the blockage of the city’s drainage system due to garbage dumping?’
In a recent interaction, the Mayor of Guwahati city, Mr. Mrigen Sarania revealed a few astonishing facts. The GMC has deployed high suction pumps to drain out rainwater from inundated areas into the river and cleaning the drains. Among many of the items discovered while suction were pillows, sleeping mattresses, garments of all kinds etc. apart from tons of plastic waste.
It’s about time people shunned hypocrisy and played their part too before accusing the administration because governments cannot be blamed for such habits born out of sheer convenience. The general public must realize that irrespective of how efficiently the government machinery functions, the goal can never be achieved without their unconditional support.
And then begins the blame game: A trend has emerged these days of posting videos/images of flooded city streets on social media by some media houses followed by the obvious government bashing. Apparently, the country is now divided between leftists, rightists, and the moderates. Our political leanings drive us more these days and we don’t give two hoots about identifying the right from the wrong.
There are people who’ll oppose/support the government irrespective of what it does as they are driven more by their ideologies than commonsense. A virtual slugfest between their followers almost daily on social media has become a major nuisance. These blockheads have so much time in the world and fail to understand that real life problems cannot be resolved in the virtual world, period.
Lastly, we’re living in a highly digitized 21st century with progresses made in every sphere from agriculture to space science. It’s high time the GMC found an alternative to the practice of cleaning of filthy city drains through manual scavengers which is outright unhygienic and involves biohazard. Moreover, leaving the muck on the roadside unattended for days on end till it dries up, not only poses serious health hazards to passersby but also causes great inconvenience to the public as a section of the road remains totally unusable.
Last year, Mr. Ashok Singhal, the Minister for Guwahati Development had said that it’ll take at least 3-4 years to eradicate the problem of artificial floods from the city. It’s understandable that such man-made problems cannot be resolved overnight and would require a lot of effort from the administration, discipline and sacrifice from the general public to make Guwahati a flood-free city. With money and resources at disposal, it’s only the intent of both the government and the public that can perhaps make a difference and we hope that we live to see the day when a sudden heavy downpour in Guwahati brings smiles on the residents’ faces in lieu of the panic that’s evident today.