Guwahati: The Assam government is all prepared to carry out an eviction drive on Monday to clear around 400 bighas (over 132 acres) of land from alleged encroachers on the bank of Silsako Beel in Guwahati, a senior official said.
The government in 2008 had declared the lake, located near Hengerabari and Choy Mile, a protected waterbody and prohibited any construction or settlement in around 1,800 bighas (over 595 acres) of the area.
“However, massive encroachments have been taking place over the years. Now, we have less than 300 bighas of the lake remaining free from encroachment. Rest all have been encroached and buildings have been constructed,” Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA) chairman Narayan Deka told PTI on Sunday.
Because of massive encroachment, the waterbody has been reduced to a small pit and this is one of the main reasons for water logging in the eastern part of Guwahati city during the monsoon, he claimed.
“The government has decided to clear this lake from encroachment and then GMDA will implement a project to develop it into a bigger lake. We will dredge and expand it gradually,” Deka said.
Though around 1,200 bighas are under encroachment as of now, the GMDA as a first step has set a target to clear 100 metres on both sides of the lake, which will be around 400 bighas, he added.
“Around 450 buildings will be affected by this. However, the number of dwelling units, where people were living, will be around 250-300. The other buildings are either empty or godowns,” Deka said.
Apart from temporary huts, concrete houses and multi-storey buildings will also be brought down during the eviction drive, he said.
“We will start the eviction exercise tomorrow morning and it is likely to continue for two-three days. Around 40 excavators, bulldozers and pokland machines will be pressed into service tomorrow,” Deka said.
He said the eviction drive will be carried out by Kamrup Metropolitan district administration, which will be provided with security by 1,000-1,200 police personnel.
“As the area fell under the protected zone and no settlement was given, the administration served no notice to the people living there. They did not have any permission at all. They were verbally told to leave the area around four-five months back,” Deka claimed.
He also stated that most of the occupants have already left their houses and “hardly anyone is there”.
“This project is very crucial to make Guwahati city free from water logging. For 15 lakh residents of Guwahati, around 300 families will face some inconveniences,” the GMDA chairman said.
The Himanta Biswa Sarma-led dispensation has been carrying out eviction drives in different parts of the state since it assumed power in May 2021. In the last three months, several major eviction exercises have taken place.
In one of the largest eviction drives in Assam, the administration in a three-day exercise from February 14 cleared 2,099 hectares in Burachapori Wildlife Sanctuary and nearby revenue villages in Sonitpur district, affecting about 12,800 people.
On February 15, in Digboi of Tinsukia district, security personnel resorted to lathi charge when alleged encroachers of railway land pelted stones to prevent an eviction drive there. The Northeast Frontier Railway evicted around 200 houses and shops.
In Barpeta district’s Bhabanipur on the same day, the district administration carried out an eviction drive to clear nearly 300 hectares of land belonging to Gopal Dev Aata Satra (Vaishnavite monastery).
In Pava Reserve Forest in Lakhimpur district, the administration had started an eviction drive to clear 450 hectares of encroached land on January 10, which continued for several days, displacing around 500 families. Also, a large area of forest-turned-agricultural land was cleared.
The drive in Nagoan’s Batadrava on December 19 was billed as one of the largest in the region as it uprooted more than 5,000 alleged encroachers. It was followed by another exercise on December 26 to clear 400 bighas in Barpeta.
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Setting aside opposition criticism, Sarma had on December 21 told the Assembly that eviction drives to clear government and forest lands in Assam would continue as long as the BJP is in power.
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