Killer Bridge: The project that will Destroy More Than 250 Trees in South Guwahati
GUWAHATI: With the Assam government’s decision of constructing a state-of-the-art, ambitious bridge connecting the south and the north banks of Guwahati from the vantage point of Bharalumukh, apprehensions are running high among a certain section of people residing in south Guwahati.
The proposed multi-crore rupee project which was cleared by the cabinet has almost set the wheel spinning towards mowing down 250 odd trees located on the south bank of the Brahmaputra River in Guwahati.
Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA) has engaged consultant SMEC India Pvt Ltd, member of the Subrana Jurong Group, a subsidiary of the government of Singapore for preparation of feasibility study and the Detailed Project Report (DPR) of the bridge across Brahmaputra River through a competitive international bidding process. The feasibility report for Guwahati-North Guwahati across Brahmaputra River was completed in December 2017. The alignment from the Bharalumukh point at Guwahati to North Guwahati landing point at Majgaon was approved by the state government and the DPR was completed in May 2018 offering a project construction period of four years.
Environmentalists claim that the age-old trees that have been instrumental in developing an ecosystem around the Brahmaputra have already been marked and numbered by the state government to be cut down for the construction of the bridge.
In the meanwhile, residents including senior citizens and children of Guwahati formed a human chain on November 10 last demanding redesign of the proposed bridge in order to protect the Sankardev and Azan Pir parks, the trees at the Bharalu Basin and the Brahmaputra riverfront stretching from Bharalumukh to Kalipur areas of the city.
The bridge would start from Bharalumukh on the south bank and end at NH-31 near Gauripur junction on the north bank.
The citizens of Guwahati have formed a co-ordination committee – Citizens’ Co-ordination Committee - which is leading the way to save the age-old trees from getting killed.
One of the members of the committee, Retd Col RK Choudhury, speaking to G Plus said, “Around 250 tress have been numbered starting from Azan Pir Park to Kalipur in which there are trees behind the Sonaram Field which are more than 100 years old and others most likely 50 plus years of age.”
“If the trees are cut down, it will automatically impact the ecological conditions with soil erosion to take the brunt,” he added.
The committee has requested that an alternative plan of construction of the bridge be taken into consideration which would basically save the trees from being cut down. However, the state government has already prepared the DPR and is in the process of clearing the land for the construction to go ahead.
Citizens alleged that although the bridge is important for developmental goals, the state government should have spoken to the general public before making the DPR which normally a government should do.
It is to be mentioned that in entire south Guwahati on the MG Road, the Azan Pir Park is the only park wherein senior citizens can go for a morning walk and the youth gather around with friends and family in the late afternoons.
According to reports, if the bridge is built, around 60 percent of the Azan Pir Park along with the trees will disappear and another whopping 80 percent which is more or less the entire portion of the Shankardev Park will be impacted.
A MoU has been sent to the Assam state government by the representatives of the region to try and stop the mowing down of the age-old trees and also expressing the sentiments associated with it.
The state government, on the other hand, along with the forest department has taken up an initiative to replant saplings in and around Guwahati to maintain the ecological balance.
“We all know the condition of the Assam government and there is no place left in Guwahati to plant such a huge number of trees. Only planting a tree will not solve the issue as the trees will have to be nurtured for years to bring back the current state of the environment,” said an environmentalist.
In the yester years, Guwahati witnessed many migratory birds on banks of the Brahmaputra and Bharalu rivers. However, with the passage of time, the Bharalu River got polluted, and is now considered as a drain only from where water-borne diseases emanate.
While the authorities claimed the saplings would be planted, residents of the area say even this action could affect the birdlife that had made the trees their home.
According to sources, a lot of trees were cut during the construction of the Guwahati passenger ropeway which is soon to be operational from Kachari Ghat of Pan Bazar on the southern side to the northern bank of Dol Govinda Temple.
Around 250 tress have been numbered starting from Azan Pir Park to Kalipur in which there are trees behind the Sonaram Field which are more than 100 years old
Impact of the Guwahati-North Guwahati Bridge: Environment Vs Real Estate
With the citizens in Guwahati coming out in numbers to save the trees, this movement indeed reflects the current condition in Maharashtra where more than 2,000 trees of Aarey Colony - a green area amid the urban sprawl of Goregon - were chopped down in October for a metro car shed.
Here in Guwahati, if this ambitious project could be altered, it would save hundreds of trees; the importance of allowing old trees to stay cannot be undermined. Such trees sequester a good amount of carbon during their lifetime that can be used to mitigate the harmful effects of climate change. Cutting them down will result in a huge loss that cannot be offset by planting new saplings.
The study published in the journal, Environmental Science & Technology, highlighted that it is the plants and not technologies for cleaning the air near a number of industrial sites, roadways, power plants, commercial boilers and oil and gas drilling sites, that too in cheaper ways.
Long-term survival is key for trees because for them to be able to offset the greenhouse gas emissions humans generate, they need to live for at least 100 years — roughly the amount of time that the carbon they capture would have stuck around in the atmosphere. Protecting those trees for the next century can be pretty precarious in the midst of political wrangling.
From the Real Estate Point of View
The bridge, on the other hand, is set to bolster the real estate development in North Guwahati which, otherwise, continues to present a rural environment despite its proximity to the sprawling urbanscape of Guwahati. At the moment, North Guwahati can be reached only by the Saraighat Bridge by way of surface transport and by crossing the Brahmaputra River on a ferry. Both situations have dissuaded real estate development in North Guwahati as it is considered economically unfeasible.
“The bridge will totally alter the real estate scenario in North Guwahati,” said a prominent builder of the city adding, “The bridge will considerably reduce the travel time between the north and south banks. In essence, North Guwahati will become a prime destination for new apartment buildings and residential bungalows. Coupled to this new development, commercial development will surely kick in and that will alter the entire lifestyle and character of North Guwahati.”
Hence, the bridge will, in all likelihood, be a boon for the real estate industry which is otherwise suffocating to provide “good locations” in the already saturated Guwahati.
About the multi-crore Extradosed Bridge
The total length of bridge on the river is 1,600 metres measured from the south to the north bank of Brahmaputra. Out of this 1,240 metres will be designed as a multispan extradosed bridge with individual span length of 200 metres between consecutive pylons. The extradosed bridge is being considered because of superior technology which reduces high numbers of foundations in the river over the conventional bridge design, good aesthetic view and less construction time.
An extradosed bridge employs a structure that combines the main elements of both a prestressed box girder bridge and a cable-stayed bridge.
Landing: At south bank it forms a Y-junction with two rotaries at Bharalumukh. The arms are designed with rotary end 30 m dia and connected by a new 3-lane road along the river bank designed as 3-lane one way box girder bridge. Junction 1 meets AT Road near the Bhootnath Temple. Junction 2 meets the meets the MG Road at Sankardev Udyan Park on the bank of the river near the Pragjyoti ITA Cultural Complex.
The bridge lands at north bank at a distance of 460 m west of Aswaklanta temple at Majgaon. The length of viaduct is 1,150 m from, Majgaon landing to Abhaypur village. From the viaduct end at Abhaypur village-1 the road meets the Abhaypur village-2 at college junction and goes towards the north along the Abhaypur main road and meets NH-31 at Gauripur junction. The total length of the road is 4.2 kms.
The project has already received clearance from Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI). The Environmental Impact Analysis has been prepared as per the Terms of Reference (ToR) received from State Environmental Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA), Assam. The land assessment for the project has been completed by the Kamrup District Authorities.