Dighalipukhuri Apart, Other Guwahati Ponds Facing Total Negligence

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Dighalipukhuri Apart, Other Guwahati Ponds Facing Total Negligence

Chayanika Das | February 15, 2020 16:57 hrs

•    Dighalipukhuri – the only well maintained pond of Guwahati out of the four great ones

•    Other three ponds – Nagkota, Jorpukhuri and Silpukhuri - have turned into dumping yards

•    These ponds which once saved the city from sinking are now choking 

•    Rapid urbanization, degrading traditional water bodies and lack of proper waste management system are the major reasons for the ongoing vulnerabilities

•    Mountains of garbage outside Silpukhuri shoo away visitors

•    Guwahati needs to take serious measures to revitalize its ponds

Guwahati, gateway to the northeast, received many tourists every year. Over the years, the city has witnessed rapid industrial growth and attracted tourists from around the world. Outsiders travelling to different north-eastern states often stop in Guwahati to explore the city and take along a little culture of Assam with them. While their stay, they visit famous tourist spots like the Assam State Zoo, the historical Kamakhya temple, one of the oldest ponds (pukhuri) of Assam, Dighalipukhuri among other big spots. 

Guwahati has four lovely ponds – Dighalipukhuri, Jorpukhuri (twin ponds that are adjacent to each other), Nagkota Pukhuri and Silpukhuri which were built by the Ahoms during their reign. Out of these four ponds, Dighalipukhuri is the only well maintained pond while the others have turned into dumping yards. 

“Guwahati which once had around 60-100 ponds is now left with only a few. Dighalipukhuri is the only pukhuri which is well-maintained while the others are being completely ignored,” Moloy Baruah, president of Early Bird, an environmental NGO told G Plus. “It should be a huge concern since these ponds help in controlling floods by holding excess water during the rainy season and protect the neighbourhood,” he added. 

He said that earlier, people would gather around these ponds and socialise but now that is no more the case. “The government should take over the administrative right to administer these ponds,” Baruah expressed. 

Baruah went on to highlight another important factor that is polluting the ponds. He said, “The people who stay near these ponds have connected their sewage line to them. This practise has been going on since a long time now and is still continuing. GMC should take over these pukhuris and cut all the sewage connection.”

History of the great ponds of Guwahati

The Ahoms were known for their great urban planning and took interest in water bodies as well as harvesting of water. It is because of their keen eye for harvesting water that the four great ponds were created.

These ponds which once played a huge role in keeping the city from sinking are now in dire conditions. Assam has faced massive floods in the past few years. Rapid urbanization, degrading traditional water bodies and lack of proper waste management system are the major reasons for the ongoing vulnerabilities.

Renowned city historian Late Kumudeswar Hazarika had written that when the British colonialists occupied Assam, there were around 300 tanks in Guwahati and North Guwahati, which were a single entity till 1893.

Out of them Dighalipukhuri, Jorpukhuri, Silpukhuri, Nagkota Pukhuri, Paltan Pukhuri, Kamarpatty Pukhuri, Padum Pukhuri at Karnachal, Majinder Pukhuri (also known as Panbazar Padum Pukhuri) located in front of the present SP Bungalow and the Padum Pukhuri at the Uzanbazar Oriya Basti have survived.

Dighalipukhuri – epic tank of Guwahati

The history of the Dighalipukhuri dates back to the Ahom rule. It was once connected with the Brahmaputra River on the north and Solabeel on the south. The channel that linked it with Brahmaputra was filled up to make room for the Circuit House and the European Club (now the old campus of the Gauhati High Court) while in the south channel, now stands the Guwahati Railway Station, Rail Colony etc. 

Legend has it that Bhagadutta, who led the Kauravas in the Mahabharata, dug the pond during the swayamvar of his daughter Bhanumati.
 
Considered to be one of the tourist spots of Guwahati, Dighalipukhuri receives many visitors every year. The numbers increases during July and December. The flora and fauna which surrounds the pond adds to its charm.

One of the twin pukhuris covered with weed

The twin ponds lie in the heart of Guwahati. The name Jorpukhuri means ‘twin ponds.’ It was derived after he British divided the tank into two parts by laying a road in its middle.

One of them is now being maintained by Ugratara temple committee while the other lies totally neglected. It is surrounded with garbage and covered by weed.

Ironically, the water of the pond connected to the temple is considered holy while the other twin pond chokes in weed. Religious practices take place in the temple premises which leads to dumping of litter in the ‘holy’ water.

The ponds are believed to have been dug during the reign of Swargadeo Siva Singha in 1720 AD for the benefit of the priests and pilgrims of the temple. This tank was also said to be connected with the Brahmaputra through the Naojan canal, which has now turned into a sewage canal. 

The forgotten Nagkota Pukhuri

Nagkota Pukhuri is located in Panbazar. It is believed that on the inaugural day of Sukreshwar temple, between 1744 and 1751 AD, a huge snake was sacrificed at the altar of the temple. A regular snake worshipping and sacrificing ceremony would take place a few feet away from the temple which is now called Nagkota Pukhuri. 

The pukhuri has turned into a sewage dump where residents and eateries dispose their garbage. “This pond is right in the heart of the city but is still ignored. Hundreds of people cross by this pond everyday but no one even knows that it exists anymore. Restaurants and residents dump their garbage in this pond and have polluted it to another extent,” said a resident of Panbazar.

Mountains of garbage outside Silpukhuri shoo away visitors

While the pond is in a fairly good state, two mountains of garbage right outside the gate of the pond are enough to shoo away visitors and tourists.

Silpukhuri is the only pond out of the four in Guwahati where a rock cut inscription of the Ahom era has been found. 

Guwahati needs to revitalize its ponds

Threatened by rapid encroachment of human habitats these ponds today remain in terrible condition.

While the city’s forbears had put in a lot of effort in controlling floods, the current generation of residents and administration have only been taking these ponds for granted. It is high time for Guwahati has to come up with initiatives to revitalize these ponds.

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