Guwahati's Parivartan in Last 2 Years
The Sarbananda Sonowal led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government completed two years in Dispur on 24th May 2018. Before the 2016 elections, the BJP had released a Vision Document (2016-2025) that contained many promises of development. Two years into the regime, the same government released Parivartan, a report on the “changes” in the last two years. G Plus recalls the promises made for Guwahati’s development and analyses the claims of the government on completion of two years in power along with the status of the promises.
Promises, claims and present status
The first promise made in the vision document was the revision of the Guwahati Master Plan. Sources in Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA) said that the work on the revision of the Guwahati master plan is ongoing but it would take around six more months for the same to be finalised. Meanwhile, the Assam Capital Region Development Authority Act 2017 was passed by the state government in October 2017. The act was passed to set up a regional authority for a rapid and integrated development of the capital city and its peripheral areas.
The next promise made in the vision document was of preventing traffic congestion by building new roads, widening existing roads and creating tunnel routes wherever necessary. In the claims made in Parivartan – the two years’ development report – the government declared that feasibility and detailed project report work for two six-lane bridges across Brahmaputra River - one from Pan Bazar to North Guwahati and another from Palashbari to Sualkuchi - is under progress. The city traffic congestion still remains the same and there is no relief. City-based activist and a senior citizen of Guwahati, Ajoy Dutta, had said that the bridge should be constructed somewhere in Noonmati and not at Pan Bazar as it will only make the traffic scenario in the locality more chaotic. There is no mention about any new foot over-bridges or tunnels in Parivartan. None of the roads have been widened, sources in Public Works Department (PWD) said.
The third promise made in the vision document was to establish a new water supply system to cater to the entire population of the city. In Parivartan, the government claimed that the newly-established Guwahati Metropolitan Water & Sewerage Board is coordinating the JICA-assisted Guwahati water supply project. Shockingly, the water supply project is ongoing since the Congress’s tenure and the completion deadline has been postponed repeatedly. After the new government was formed in 2016, the GMDA officials had claimed that by the end of 2017, the water supply project would be complete. But that did not happen. The present government has also failed to provide the exact timeframe by which the project would be completed. There is no extra pace observed with the work over the last two years.
Another vital promise which the BJP made before 2016 elections was that they would use state-of-the-art technology to prevent flash floods. In Parivartan, nothing has been mentioned about any new initiative regarding controlling flash floods. Talking about the present scenario only the de-siltation budget for the next three years has been increased from Rs 45 crores to Rs 75 crores. But the process of de-siltation remains the same. Even now the city faces flash floods with just half an hour of downpour.
The vision document promised that green canopies will be created in all areas of the city with large areas of green and joggers parks across the city. In last two years, an agreement was signed between the state government and government of Singapore for planning landscapes with integration of parks, open spaces and green networks under the Guwahati open spaces and park integrator network. Technical approval for design is under process, the Parivartan document said. Two new parks at Assam State Housing Board Complex, Maligaon and Khadi & Village Industries Board Complex, Hengrabari have been taken up in the last two years. But the idea of converting the old jail campus at Fancy Bazar into a botanical garden has not been taken well by the local public.
The other promises made were preventing the destruction of hills and hillocks and protecting the water bodies in and around the city. Well, the Amchang eviction was one initiative seen but it was again done on the directive of the Gauhati High Court. Other than that no other initiative was taken by the government in the last two years.
Other claims made on Guwahati development
The Sarbananda Sonowal government has made some other claims also in the Parivartan report released on 24th May.
The report said, “The old Deputy Commissioner’s (DC) bungalow is being converted into the Guwahati Heritage & Handloom Museum. This site will be used as a recreational and educational hub for the city.”
The Parivartan report also claimed that the multilevel car parking in front of Shraddhanjali Kanan was now open for public and construction of the multilevel car parking at MMC Hospital campus is targeted for completion soon. Both the projects were started during the Congress regime before 2016 and the work on the MMC Hospital campus car parking is moving at the same pace missing all the completion deadlines.
The report claimed that Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) has engaged 58 NGOs for door-to-door garbage collection of solid waste. Sweeping of arterial roads, streets, footpaths, pavements, etc has been taken up extensively.
Many city residents are of the view that the garbage collection is not regular. NGOs had been enrolled earlier as well for the job prior to 2016 but at that time there were 31 NGOs. It’s just that the number has increased after the tender agreement expired in 2017. There is no other initiative by the government on garbage collection system improvement.
Talking about smart city projects, the Parivartan report claimed that a few area-based development projects and several pan-city projects in information technology, road, electrical and solar sectors have been taken up which has made significant progress in 2017. The report said that preliminary work on Gandhi Mandap refurbishment, installation of the National Flag at Gandhi Mandap, supply of safe drinking water through 20 automated water dispensing units at select locations and installation of 30 bio-toilets have begun.
But the smart city work is moving at a snail’s pace. In 2014, Narendra Modi’s government claimed that the first list containing 20 smart cities will be made smart within five years. At present, Guwahati Smart City Limited authorities are not sure about the deadline. Also, the vital projects under the smart city are under detailed project report preparation process.