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Engineers dismiss Khataniar’s contention
Staff Reporter

AREIDA president PK Sarma addressing a press conference at the Guwahati Press Club on Monday. – UB Photos
 GUWAHATI, July 25 - A group of leading engineers today asserted that the Changsari site for the All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) was selected by an expert committee constituted by the Union Government considering over thirty aspects and it cannot be dismissed as a non-feasible site.

In a joint press release here today, engineers Dr Diganta Goswami of Assam Engineering College, AREIDA president PK Sarma, Kailash Sarma of Save Guwahati Build Guwahati, Anil Sarma, Amit Barua, Bimal Sen Deka, Pritam Nath, general secretary of Association of Architects, Assam, amongst others, said the State government had proposed seven sites for the purpose. Out of these, two sites in North Guwahati were short-listed and finally Changsari was selected after detailed analysis. The above expert committee examined the technical parameters, which included mandatory environmental impact assessment, accessibility, national and international connectivity, technical feasibility, comparative project cost analysis and existence of support infrastructure in the vicinity for the purpose of selecting the AIIMS site, said the engineers.

Reacting to the assertion made by consultant engineer JN Khataniar on the Changsari site a few days back, these engineers claim that Khataniar’s comments on the issue appeared to be instigating the public in an already surcharged atmosphere over the issue.

Claiming that JN Khataniar is neither an expert nor an authorised spokesperson of the engineering fraternity, the engineers alleged that Khataniar has made false technical statements to mislead the public.

Giving a point-by-point response to what Khataniar had said, these engineers claim that the Jalah Beel is not a water body covered under The Guwahati Water Bodies (Preservation, Conservation and Protection) Act, 2008 and hence Khataniar’s allegation that AIIMS construction would violate the said Act, is not based on facts. This Act has specifically notified the following water bodies in the Schedule I to IV - the Sarusala, Borsola, Silsako and the Deepor beels and Bondajan was added as Schedule V in the amended Act 2010.

The permissible built-up construction in the area allotted to AIIMS is 50.92 per cent as per Table 14.2 of the notified Master Plan. The Building Construction Regulation Bye Laws 2014, restricts the ground coverage of such institutional buildings to 35 per cent as per clause 26 (1) (c). Therefore, the AIIMS construction would cover a maximum area of 35 per cent of the plot area and leave the balance 65 per cent as open space. The wetlands, hills, rivers, natural streams, forest, as admitted by Khataniar himself, constitute only 20.25 per cent of the plot area. Hence this area obviously need not be touched at all.

Only “notified water bodies” under Guwahati Water Bodies (Preservation, Conservation and Protection) Act, 2008 and 2010 and “designated hills” under the Assam Hill Land and Ecological Sites (Protection and Management) Act 2006, are prohibited areas under the law. The law allows for scientific and regulated development of other areas as per laid down engineering stipulations.

Khataniar’s calculation on the destruction of the nearby hills is ridiculous, they said. Without ascertaining the design topography and landscaping, how can anyone calculate the volume of earth fill and why should the low-lying areas at all be filled when the built-up area would be maximum 35 per cent.

Whatever earth filling is required can easily be obtained from the nearby Brahmaputra, which is generating so much silt that its bed level is rising every year. To fill up the low-lying areas, the hills would not at all be needed to be touched as falsely claimed by Khataniar.

Khataniar’s assertion that 231 crore litres of water would flood the whole of North Guwahati is also found to be the most absurd one. Calculations of water volumes require intricate dynamic flow analysis and computation in the built environment.

Further, they say, patients and specialised doctors often need to be flown in at short notice in life threatening situations. One can imagine the plight of a top level specialist or emergency patient being caught in water logging at Jorabat or in the numerous road blockades and bandhs en route to any other location in Upper or Middle Assam, say the engineers.

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