GUWAHATI, Feb 20 - Legislators cutting across party lines today called for steps to further strengthen the State Water Resources Department and also for preventive action to tackle the flood and erosion problem of the State more effectively.
Taking part in the discussion on the Voting on Demands for Grants of the Water Resources Department in the Legislative Assembly, MLAs also called upon the Government to ensure that funds allotted are spent on time and projects are completed as per schedule.
AIUDF MLA Hafiz Bashir Ahmed Kasimi suggested that families who suffer loss of land on account of erosion should be provided certificates classifying them as ‘Internally Displaced Persons’ so that they can be resettled without any hassles. Kasimi said that flood and erosion aggravate the agrarian crisis, which is dangerous for a rural economy like Assam’s.
He said that lakhs of hectares of land in Assam have been lost on account of erosion over the last few decades. Citing CAG reports, Kasimi said that the Water Resources Department has failed to properly utilise the funds allocated to it during recent years. “The Government has failed to do the required things,” he alleged.
Numal Momin of the BJP said that 40 per cent of the landmass of the State is affected by flood on an annual basis. Since assuming office, the State Government has taken various steps to tackle flood and erosion, he added.
“Erosion protection measures have been taken up by our Government covering 16,500 square km area,” Momin claimed. Citing cost escalation of projects due to delay in implementing schemes, he called for establishment of a monitoring mechanism. He suggested that land pattas should not be provided to any family up to a distance of 2 km from the banks of the Brahmaputra and Barak rivers, and 1 km from the banks of other rivers.
Nurul Huda of the Congress supported Kasimi’s demand for providing certificates to erosion-affected families. He said that many embankments, constructed decades back and already past their natural lifespan, have not been repaired or renovated.
Kishor Nath of the BJP called for greater allocation of funds for the Water Resources Department and called upon the Government to ensure that flood and erosion prevention schemes are implemented as per schedule.
Replying to the debate on the Cut Motion, Minister for Education, Guwahati Development Department and Law and Justice Siddhartha Bhattacharya said that the Government has taken a number of both short-term and long-term measures to tackle flood and erosion.
Bhattacharya was replying to the discussion as Keshab Mahanta, who held the Water Resources Department, had last month submitted his resignation. However, the Chief Minister has so far not forwarded the resignation of Mahanta and two other ministers from the AGP to the Governor.
Bhattacharya said that work has been taken up to raise and strengthen 875 km of embankments. In addition, work has also been initiated for drainage system and construction of sluice gates as short-term measures.
The minister said a detailed study on the proposal to construct expressways on the banks of the Brahmaputra after dredging of the river has been handed over to the Prime Minister. He said that action has been taken under the Flood Management Programme and external aid has also been sought for various projects.
Work on the second phase of an ADB-funded project, costing Rs 581 crore, will be taken up at Kaziranga, Dibrugarh and Palasbari. The State Government has got in touch with the Centre for help in tackling flood-related problems of rivers originating in other States or countries.
Bhattacharya said that the proposal for creating an Erosion Management Fund is under consideration of the Government.
Bhattacharya said the Government is open to the idea of the Assembly passing a resolution calling upon the Centre to classify riverine erosion as natural disaster.