For them it is a postulation, and for many others it is a natural phenomenon. That is what one of the long-standing demands of the ‘Save Guwahati Build Guwahati’ (SGBG), a prominent social organisation in Guwahati. It has been relentlessly standing for the cause of the Guwahatians since its inception. Since 1991, the SGBG has been vocal about the development of the riverside areas of the mighty Brahmaputra.
The organisation is of the opinion that once the riverside development work of the Brahmaputra takes place, the denizens would be able to take fresh air which is an indispensable ingredient for a healthy life. Quoting the suggestions once made by British geologist Richard Dixon Oldham on his ‘Report of the great earthquake of 12th June, 1897’ after 1897 earthquake in Assam, the SGBG has been raising the demand for riverside development of the mighty Brahmaputra for a long time for the sake of greater interest of around 20 lakh Guwahatians. In his report, Oldham suggested that both the riversides should be made free from any permanent construction. Subsequently, the apex court also accepted the report calling it ‘a bible on earthquake’ once.
It is worth mentioning that Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, noted educationist, philosopher as well as former President of India, once pointed out that the Guwahatians would be able to see the sunrise and the sunset everyday if both the riversides of the mighty Brahmaputra made free from any construction. He too dreamt that Guwahati would turn out to be the finest tourist hotspot in Asia one day if the government takes steps to develop the riversides of the Brahmaputra and keep both the riversides free from any construction.
In wake of repeated demand put forward by the SGBG, the State government has been taking some steps to develop riverbanks of the mighty river from time to time. Nevertheless, the development is yet to be seen.
In 2000, due to the pressure created by the SGBG as well as the people of Guwahati for the Brahmaputra riversides’ development, the then State government instituted two committees to look into the matter and give suggestions. Among these two committees, one headed by Justice Dhiraj Narayan Choudhury, was for judicial purpose. The other committee, headed by former vice-chancellor of Gauhati University Dr Nirmal Kr Choudhury, was instituted to consult with the judicial committee in this regard. After two years of consultations with the stakeholders, the committees suggested the government to take urgent measures to develop riversides of the Brahmaputra. The Justice Choudhury committee, examining the legal aspects of the proposed Brahmaputra riverside development, has noted that the riverfront of the Brahmaputra could be made free from permanent construction. The committee also suggested that some already constructed structures could be shifted from the riverfront gradually to the site of Kamakhya Hill and the Raj Bhawan area in the city.
Subsequently, the then State government through its Gazette Notification announced that the work of the riversides’ development would be started according to the recommendations of the Justice Choudhury and Dr Choudhury’s committees. The government also made promise that steps would be taken to make the riverfront free from permanent construction. However, the then Government’s promise is yet to be implemented. At a time when the people of almost entire country express worry over the construction of the hydro-electric dams by China on Brahmaputra in and around Tibet, the Government of Assam is yet to complete life-saving journey of the mighty river in Guwahati. Though the previous State governments took some steps in this regard, the outcome is yet not seen by the people as per their expectations.
But now the people of Guwahati see a ray of hope with the positive and earnest comprehensive scheme taken by the Sarbananda Sonowal-led government to develop the riversides of the Brahmaputra. The people hope that the government would take steps to complete the riverside development work in the current year itself.
It is expected that the government would initiate steps to implement the Justice DN Choudhury report for the sake of the greater interest of Guwahatians and for wellbeing of future generations. The people too expect sagacious steps from the Guwahati Development Department in this regard. Because it not only saves the river giving respite to the city dwellers from the polluted air but also fulfils former President of India Dr Radhakrishnan’s aforementioned dream about the city, besides checking the problem of river erosion and ecological imbalance.
The conscious people of the city also expect from the government that it would take steps to construct a road near the Brahmaputra river in Guwahati for the easy movement of the denizens without damaging the river.
In November 2016, a team under the leadership of Chairman of Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA), Dhiren Baruah, visited Ahmedabad for an on-the-spot study of Sabarmati Riverfront Development project etc. The technical team of GMDA had fruitful interactions with the officials of Sabarmati Riverfront Development Corporation (SRFDC) and Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) on different aspects over a video presentation of the construction of the project and its design.
The Sabarmati Riverfront Development project, Ahmedabad, by itself is a multifunctional project for the benefit of people of the city. The project was initiated by the then Gujarat government with a loan from NABARD and ultimately completed with JNURRM funding in 10 years time. I along with my team from GMDA observed that the project is not only aimed towards development of irrigation facilities, but also for boosting the environment, economy, lifestyle and power crisis (with the implementation of solar system etc.).
Not only a unique project I have witnessed in my (90+ years) lifetime, but I was spellbound to learn out of a simple interaction with a few common people when they say in their local dialect that “ye hamara Modiji ka chamatkar hai” (It’s our Midiji’s magic). Also they did not forget to mention that benefit out of this project will be enjoyed even for generations to come and that is why this is one of the signature projects of the world.
I have sufficient reasons to believe that we having a government in our State for changes and being guided by the ideologies of our Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it will keep no stone unturned to present a project for the Brahmaputra riverfront with similar outlook for the benefit of the people of Guwahati.