Guwahati, Sunday, December 26, 2010
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Population pressure and problems of Guwahati
Hirabati Kalita
 GUWAHATI, the historical Pragjyotishpur, is located in between the southern bank of the mighty Brahmaputra river and the foothills of the Shillong plateau is the capital city of Assam and gateway North-East. Guwahati is the business hub and largest city of Assam and North East. Guwahati is also the biggest commercial, industrial, educational and health centre of the region. For Look East Policy of GOI, emerging importance of Guwahati will be phenomenal. For all these reasons there is a tremendous pressure of population in Guwahati city.

According to the 2001 census population in Guwahati was 8,18,809 against the total population of 2,66,55,528 in our State, which is 3.19 per cent of total population. The geographical area of Guwahati is 216.79 sq.km against the total area of 78,438 km of our State which is only 0.28 per cent of total geographical area. This scanty geographical area has to support 3.9 per cent of total population of our State.

The density of population in Guwahati is 579 persons per sq.km against the average density of 340 persons per sq.km in our State. Again, urban population in Assam is 12.72 per cent, which is 33,90,583 of total population. If we compare the population of Guwahati with total urban population in our state, then we find that Guwahati shares 25 per cent of total urban population. On the other hand, no other cities like Nagaon, Jorhat, Dibrugarh etc. touch 1.5 lakh population mark as per the 2001 census. This is the demographic picture of Guwahati.

Population is a pre-requisite for development. But excessive increase of population becomes a problem to a city, State or country. Now, Guwahati is in a state of over-population. But increasing growth of population in Guwahati is not due to natural factors like very high birth rate and low death rate. The main factor behind this is migration, which is social and economic in nature. Poor people in rural areas facing extreme poverty and hardship come to Guwahati for survival. Slightly better lower middle class people come to Guwahati for better earning and better life. Students in large number from rural areas, other towns and from some North-Eastern States come to Guwahati expecting quality education. There is also flow of people from other States to earn livelihood in different economic activities and to start their own venture. Women folk in large numbers also come to work as domestic help. The decades-long insurgency problem has raised the feeling of insecurity, so a growing tendency is seen amongst the people of middle class to own a house in Guwahati. Recently, such tendency is seen also amongst some affluent people of some North-East states.

The increasing population has created a lot of civic and environmental problems in Guwahati. Increasing population leads to corresponding increase in traffic population. The problem of traffic congestion has became horrible. Carbon emission of the vehicular traffic has been a health hazard to the citizens of Guwahati. Again, for robust growth of real estate sector, the scarcity of drinking water has been looming large. The source of water supply in residential apartments is underground water drawn through big pump set. Consequently, ground water level has receded annually to a much lower level. The problem of drainage and sanitation has been manifold. Now, garbage disposal has also become a problem due to lack of proper scientific method. Demand of electricity has also increased against inelastic supply. So, ASEB has now no other option except resorting to frequent power cuts. Intangible fear of earthquake is also accumulating among the Guwahatians. Such feeling has been accentuated from the crack and tilting of a few residential apartments after a low intensity earthquake, at Bhangagarh locality.

Another man-made problem in Guwahati is flash flood over the years. The encroachers in order construct house cut the hill slopes. The encroachers also do not spare low lying wetland areas of the city. This twin man-made factor creates flash flood in Guwahati city. Flash Flood is making life measurable in the city.

Due to increasing population day by day ugly incidents of crimes and anti-social activities like rape, murder, car-lifting, theft, robbery, drugs and liquor menace etc. are increasing alarmingly. Thus, quality of life in Guwahati has deteriorated.

So, the government, society, intellectuals, academicians, town planners, NGOs, media etc. should come forward with possible remedial measures. As a majority comes from rural areas, proper stress should be given to rural development and agriculture so that flight of people may stop. In RD Department the problem is not for fund. Funds for different schemes are a plenty. The problem lies in proper utilisation of the fund. A major portion of the allotted fund under different schemes are apportioned amongst the official, contractor and politician nexus as is always alleged. NREGA, the most popular scheme with guarantee of 100 days assured employment has brought immense benefit to the poor people in other states. But in Assam its performance is far from satisfactory. So, with proper implementation of the schemes under RD Department influx of rural people to Guwahati could be checked to an extent. The agricultural scene in Assam is also deplorable. Agriculture mostly depends on nature. The percentage of cultivable land under irrigation is low. Flood control measures are also poor. Banks are also reluctant to given loan to the farmers. Even Kishan Credit Card covers only 12 per cent of farmers in Assam.

So, the Govt. should take proper measures so that the farmers do not wash their hands off farming activities and move to Guwahati as labourer.

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