Guwahati, Monday, January 05, 2015
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Invasive weeds, encroachment destroying canals
 BARPETA, Jan 4 – The entire system of flowing water is at stake in the eastern part of Barpeta, either due to man-made or natural hazards posing a serious threat to the ecosystem, hygiene and economy as well. There are several canals in the area, most of which connect two big sources of natural water. Some of them flow from a village in one end and a natural deep water tank or a river on the other. But most of the canals are on the verge of extinction in the hands of encroachers or due to the tremendous growth of invasive weeds. Some other factors also cause siltation of these canals which have made the task of the encroachers more convenient and ignited the growth of invasive weeds.While some of the canals are natural, some are dug by men for their convenience of irrigation, removal of extra water from the residential areas to get rid of water-logging and movement of fishes. These canals were also used as routes of transport, as people then were mainly dependent on boats for movement from one place to the other.

Alpa known also as the Alpa Ganga is the longest canal in the area. It originates from the foothills of Bhutan and flows along Baksa and Nalbari towards Barpeta. The major portion of this canal falls under the Sarthebari revenue circle of the district. From the far east of Barpeta district, this long and deep canal merges with the Tabha beel. Throughout its long route, it touches several villages and Sarthebari town.

Alpa Ganga is the lifeline of all the people residing along the canal. For them it is the source of fishing, transportation, irrigation and even drinking water but till a few years back. It is one of the main sources of religious activities as it is used for ablution necessary to perform rituals. Hence it is a part and parcel of the culture and tradition of this locality.

But the most useful way in which Alpa served the people was the cleaning of the areas it flowed through. As the rainwater takes the dirt from the residential areas to Alpa canal, it receives them on its lap. It helped the entire area to maintain cleanliness and hygiene. The flora and fauna of Alpa canal not only supported the livelihood of the villagers but also amused them.

The canal connecting Kapala beel on the south and Alpa on the north via Panagaor Tup at Lachima is one of the most important canals in the area. It provided an open route for the indigenous fishes of Kapala beel. With the advent of the monsoons, various types of fishes come out of the Kapala beel which is used for breeding and it makes the entire area rich in fish. Likewise, the canals from Baniyakuchi and Haladhibari towards Kapala beel serve multiple purposes including movement of fish, transportation of boats and carrying of dirt from the villages. There are several other canals in the entire area serving similar purposes.

But with the passage of time, all these important water routes are facing extinction either due to man-made or natural reasons. Encroachment on both the sides have shrunk their width, making it difficult for water to flow smoothly. Invasive weeds have grown in such a way that even the current of water has also been intercepted in some places. Both the encroachment and invasive weeds have caused siltation in the canals. Unplanned construction of roads and bridges has also caused trouble in some cases. Though some canals are still in existence with little current in the summer season, some are not traceable now.

Whatever may be the causes of extinction, their absence is a major loss to the people of this area. Almost all the villages of this locality and Sarthebari town suffer from water- logging during the summer. It has caused serious problems in the movement of people as also to their health. It is regarded as one of the main reasons for the abnormal growth of mosquitoes, which makes life miserable throughout the year. Polluted water in the residential areas create a stench that causes an unhygenic atmosphere.

As rural people are by and large unaware of the adverse affects of environmental pollution and they cannot do anything, specially in respect of encroachment and large-scale growth of invasive weeds, the Government must come forward to restore these canals. Local bodies like the gaon panchayats and town committees can execute effective measures in this regard.

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