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Why is everyone silent over the encroachment along the river?



The root cause of pollution of the Wahumkhrah: (L) Houses which have come up right along the river bank discharge their wastes directly into the river. (R) The river is on the verge of dying an unnatural death with garbage strewn all over the river at Polo. (Photos by Sanjib Bhattacharjee)

Everyone is talking these days about cleaning the Wahumkhrah River, but surprisingly no one is talking about the problem of encroachment along the river, which is the very reason behind the damage faced by the river.

There is large-scale encroachment along the river bank, thanks to the indifference of the administration and ‘politicking’ for personal gains.

Neither the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) which has taken over control of the river from the Syiem of Mylliem nor the Government is taking any serious step to address the problem of encroachment along the river.

Even the NGOs, who have become actively involved in a Save Wahumkhrah Campaign formed recently, have overlooked the problem of encroachment.

KHADC, incidentally, claims that they would first need to formulate rules relating to encroachment before touching upon the issue which they termed as sensitive.

The Government, on the other hand, is shying away from going all out against encroachment since they fear it might have a political backlash.

The government has also been bogged down by a Gauhati High Court verdict which set aside a demolition drive launched by MUDA in 2011.

It is a different matter altogether that the Urban Affairs Minister, had claimed after the High Court restrain on demolition, that they would undertake a fresh survey to disseminate the large-scale encroachment along the river.

The Minister had also claimed that the survey would help the government put up a strong case so as to challenge the High Court verdict.

That the proposed survey never took place, displays in ample measure the government’s commitment to saving the Wahumkhrah.

The less said about politicians, the better.

None of the politicians in the State would want to put their hands into the fire and touch the problem of encroachment along the Wahumkhrah since the illegal encroachers constitute a huge chunk of their vote bank.

Not only this, businessmen who run their shops along the river bank at Polo and Saw Furlong have their political affiliation with one party or the other, besides ‘being in the good books of’ NGOs and such similar groups, who have a say in the city.

The politicians may have chosen to stay mum and appease their voters by taking a cue from the fate of James Marvin Pariat, who as Urban Affairs Minister and Prashant Naik as Deputy Commissioner of East Khasi Hills had in 1995-96 undertaken a demolition drive against illegal structures along the Wahumkhrah River from Polo to Fourth Furlong.

The demolition drive apparently led to the defeat of Pariat in the 1998 Assembly election in the State at the hands of AL Hek who had contested on a BJP ticket.

As the saying goes: ‘A burnt child dreads the fire’.

(By Lamphrang Nongspung)

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