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River Umngi encroaches into habitations in Balat

River Umngi encroaches into habitations in Balat

BALAT: Man-made activities have triggered nature’s fury with the river Umngi encroaching into human habitations in Balat village, South West Khasi Hills since 2005 and it has become an annual phenomenon every monsoon giving the residents sleepless nights once the rain starts.
The villagers all point to one activity- stone and sand extracted from the Umngi river bed forcing the river to divert to Balat and thereby flooding the area and causing landslide.
Residents recalled with nostalgia the times when they used to walk a rather far distance on foot towards the river, go for a swim or wash clothes.
Daniel Wahlang, a village elder said there is a tussle between Hima Bhowal and Hima Maharam and added that Balat is a disputed area as they vie to extract boulders and sand from the Umngi river bed.
“Back in our childhood days, it takes 15-20 minutes to go to the Umngi river. But now the situation is different, the river has come to us instead,” he said.
Headman of Balat, Koiland Khardewsaw said starting from 2005, the river encroached into Balat thereby affecting altogether 175 households, four schools, 2 ICDS centers, Church and temples.
He informed that 10 years ago, the river Umngi did not encroach into people’s land in Balat due to the protection rendered by the PWD wall. However, the situation has changed when fencing started as stones and sand were extracted from the Umngi river bed.
The transportation of stones is facilitated by Hima Maharam and for this the Hima gets the benefits, Khardewsaw claimed.
The headman said the village will not allow the extraction of stones and sand any longer. He said back the in 2005, the Brahmaputra Boat tried to create a diversion at Mawsapliah but left it incomplete.
President of Seng Longkmie, L.Majaw said ever since the start of the fencing in 2007, boulders and stones were extracted from the river bed which triggered diversion of the river water.
She claimed that during late PK Raswai’s tenure as MLA, assistance was provided once the residents complained about flood and urged the new MLA Pius Marwein to address their grievances.
“Balat is our rice bowl, if Balat gets washed away, we have no-where else to go,” she said.
According to the women’s wing, the Brahmaputra Board has not been of any help and has not even consulted the village when it made efforts to protect the Umngi water from diverting to Balat.
With schools being washed away, Majaw informed that classes are being held in people’s homes and makeshift tents.
Besides the encroachment, houses, schools, a Presbyterian Church were also damaged due to heavy rainfall.
Voice of Balat’s youth
Meanwhile, youths who took reporters to the site to get a clearer picture of the river encroachment through narrow lanes of Balat market, said, “We will seek clarification from the MLA whether the Syiem of Hima Maharam will stop the diversion route of the water to protect the land of Balat.”
A youth from the village said due to the encroachment of the river which happens every year during monsoons, many villagers have settled elsewhere.
The youths have also sought the cooperation of the MLA from Mawsynram HM Shangpliang and MLA from Ranikor as natural disaster in one constituency will affect the other.
Minister to submit report
Tasked by Chief Minister Conrad Sangma to make assessment of all areas facing natural disasters, PHE minister Samlin Malngiang inspected the site where the river washed away human habitations.
Speaking to a section of reporters, he said, “The report to the government will be submitted day after tomorrow (Wednesday) along with suggestions.”
He said temporary solutions will have to be made by using plastic bags and bamboo to prevent the river from diversion and prevent encroachment.
Water Resources Minister Metbah Lyngdoh and Ranikor MLA Pius Marwein will visit Balat village on Thursday to take stock of the havoc caused by the Umngi river in Balat village, South West Khasi Hills due to repeated river erosion in which houses, schools, church and temple have been affected, our Mawkyrwat correspondent adds.
The minister will be accompanied by the Deputy Commissioner, Isawanda Laloo, SDO Ranikor Civil Sub-Division HS Diengdoh and officials from Water Resources Department.
The Myntri of Balat village, Kloilan Khardewsaw has warned that if rain continues, the river will do more damage to the village.
Speaking to The Shillong Times, Khardewsaw informed that three more houses near the bank of the river Umngi and an ICDS Centre are in danger if the rain continues.
“If the rain continues, soil erosion will also continue. It will not take long for three more houses and the ICDS Centre to be completely eroded and fall in the Umngi River,” Khardewsaw said.
It may be mentioned that due to incessant rain which has continued since the last week of June, the water level has risen and has repeatedly caused river erosion along the bank and also damaged public and private property.
According to the recent inspection by the SDO of Ranikor Civil Sub-Division HS Diengdoh, District Disaster Management Officer, DL Kharkongor and Junior Engineer Water Resources Department, Synsharlang Lyngdoh, it was found that a residential house, the Presbyterian Church, the office of the Syiem of Hima Maharam and an ICDS Centre have been affected by the incessant rain while a temple and the Balat Bengali Public LP School have completely eroded.

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