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Pitch black Bharalu River creates health havoc in Fatasil Ambari

Posted On :: Wednesday 13th September 2017
In this week’s Ward Watch, G Plus makes a clarion call to the government to salvage the extreme pollution created in the Bharalu and Mora Bharalu river systems
In this week’s Ward Watch, G Plus makes a clarion call to the government to salvage the extreme pollution created in the Bharalu and Mora Bharalu river systems
By: Avishek Sengupta

Concentrated Area: Fatasil Ambari (15C)
Ward No: 15
Population of the Ward: 45,000
Voter Population:  19,700
Population of Fatasil Ambari: 13,750
Ward Councillor: Sumit Das
One of the advantages to Guwahati, the natural drainage of the Bharalu and Mora Bharalu Rivers, has, over the last three decades, turned into a nightmare for the inhabitants of the Fatasil Ambari in Ward No 15.
The Mora Bharalu River originates from Deepor Beel and after passing through Gorchuk and crossing under the National Highway 37, flows parallel along Dhirenpara Road and Lokhra Road through Dhirenpara and Fatasil Ambari and meets the Bharalu River flowing from Zoo Road via Anil Nagar, Rajgarh and Sarabbhatti, at Bishnupur, near Balaji Mandir to meet the Brahmaputra River at Bharalumukh.
This natural drainage network, historically, had acted as an advantage to this city.
In the 16th century when Pragjyotishpura (present day Guwahati) was a battlefront to thwart attacks from outsiders through the Brahmaputra River, the Ahom army general, Lachit Barphukan, built the Garchuk Lachit Garh that started from Fatasil Hills in the city where present day Fatasil Ambari is situated, bracketing the Deepor Beel within, passed through the Gorchuk Chariali to end at Pamohi in Kamrup (Rural).
The rampart was to thwart attacks from the west and Deepor Beel and its river Mora Bharalu, that lay within the rampart, acted as natural water hazards. According to legend, these water bodies were filled with poisonous amphibians, snakes and alligators brought from Sundarban to neutralise those attackers who would somehow cross the rampart.
Over the years, the city started spreading - more so after the India-Pakistan partition, when Kalapahar was designated as the refugee camp for East Bengal (present day Bangladesh) and the Bengali population was pushed into the Fatasil Ambari area.
Currently, the Mora Bharalu River carries the sewage of the city into the Brahmaputra. As the city grew larger, the river grew filthier. Today, the river is pitch black in colour, a bearer of germs and disease-carrying insects and emits a stink throughout its course. It, however, has been particularly bad for the people of Fatasil Ambari where the river flow is controlled with a sluice gate.
“The sewage gets stuck and leaves sediments here due to the sluice gate. Since the natural flow of the river is controlled, small pockets have surfaced by the side of the river where disease bearing mosquitoes breed. The occasional fogging by the GMC falls flat to the breeding of the mosquitoes. Every year, several from this regions fall prey to diseases such as dengue and Japanese Encephalitis,” Bhashkar Dasgupta a resident of the area said.
“We feel ashamed to invite guests to our house. The first thing that hits them is the stink of the river. No matter how much room-fresheners we use, the stink doesn’t go. It’s a shame that the river, which once protected the city, has now degenerated to a sewage route,” Karabi Devi, a housewife said.
The river, however, is not the only concern for the residents of Fatasil. The area of the city, that connects Kalapahar with Bharalumukh, is also suffering from dilapidated roads and has youths reeling under addiction to country liquor as its residents.
According to a youth named Pritam Dey Sarkar, who lives in the Cycle Factory area, “There is a club named Pahartoli Sporting Club which lately has converted into a drinking den for the youths. When a particular club turns into a den for drunkards, the youths around too start replicating it. Since this area is mostly inhabited by those who are not very solvent economically, the illegal liquor racket has found a readymade market. There are at least 4-5 such bhattis from where the youths procure the liquor.”
Talking about the condition of the roads, 18-year-old Amlanjyoti Das of Fatasil Ambari said, “I haven’t seen a properly pitched carpet in this region since I was a kid. The interiors of this area have only seen gravel being levelled with rollers. No pitch cover. The main road from the cycle factory was carpeted a decade back, but due to lack of repair works, several potholes have formed on it, making commuting extremely difficult.”
“Thanks to the India-Australia ICC T20 match that will be held here on October 10, the roads from Dhirenpara to Battalion Gate are being repaired. Otherwise, that road had remained broken for the last two decades,” Das added.
Councillor says:
G Plus asked the councillor Sumit Das, who has been the councillor of Ward No 15 for three terms, on what steps he had taken to purify the water of the river.
“It isn’t in my hands. The sewage treatment is up to the water resource department. I can understand that the people are suffering but in my 15-year tenure, I had asked the government – both the incumbent BJP and the earlier Congress - several times, but nothing happened. Moreover, the river doesn’t only flow through my ward but several others on the way. The people of my ward are worst affected, but it is not being polluted here,” Das said.
“The country liquor problem is a new trouble that has started. I have spoken with the police officer in-charge here and we will look into it,” he added.
Bone of contention:
Rafiqua Ahmed, Chief Environmental Scientist of Pollution Control Board of Assam (PCBA) said that the condition of the river will worsen further if the government does not start any sewage treatment plant.
“It is surprising that Guwahati, the gateway to northeast, has no water sewage treatment plant. This rampant dumping of the sewage of the city has already polluted the river beyond repair. This river further flows into the Brahmaputra and the damage is visible now. There is no aquatic life form in the Bharalu or Mora Bharalu. For about 1.5 km radius of Bharalumukh where this river meets the Brahmaputra, there is no life form,” Ahmed said.
According to the Central Pollution Control Board's 2010 data, the faecal coliform bacteria level was below the standard in the rest of the state and above 3,000 in the city where the Bharalu meets the Brahmaputra. The population of coliform bacteria or the disease creating bacteria per 100 ml is a measure to calculate the health of a river.
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