Meghalaya: Committee meets DCs to restore and protect water bodies
Members of the expert committee at the meeting

Shillong: An expert committee constituted to look into the restoration and protection of water bodies in Meghalaya held a meeting with the deputy commissioners of all the districts in the state on Thursday.

This was the second meeting of the expert committee. The first meeting was held on July 20, 2022.

The expert committee was constituted on June 23 this year in accordance with the High Court of Meghalaya PIL of 2019 (Re Cleanliness of Umiam Lake Vs the State of Meghalaya).

The mandate of the committee is to advise the state government on measures to be taken for the restoration and protection of water bodies in the state. The committee, which was first tasked with looking specifically at the Umiam lake, was later given the additional responsibility to look into all the water bodies in Meghalaya. 

The meeting was to review the information passed on by the districts. Three districts – West Khasi Hills, Ri Bhoi, and South West Garo Hills – have been given 10 days to submit their report as their authorities were not clear about the format.

After the first meeting in July, the expert committee sent a format to deputy commissioners of all the districts, giving them parameters on how to identify these water bodies which are affected, polluted, and contaminated and then submit a report. 

Once the committee collects information from all the districts, it will collate it and come up with expert prescriptions for the different ills affecting the different water bodies.

Meghalaya’s Principal Chief Conservator of Forest BK Lyngwa, who is also the chairman of the committee, informed that 60 rivers will be kept out of its purview since there are concerned committees already looking into these rivers.

Seven rivers — Umkhrah (Shillong), Umshyrpi (Shillong), Kyrhuhkhla (East Jaintia Hills), Nongbah (West Khasi Hills), Umtrew (Ri Bhoi District), Lukha (East Jaintia Hills District), and Myntdu (West Jaintia Hills District) are under the purview of the River Rejuvenation Committee. Fifty-three wetlands in the state are under the State Wetland Authority.

“Apart from these, 60 other waterbodies including lakes, ponds, and stretches of rivers deemed polluted will be taken up by the committee,” said Naba Bhattacharjee, expert member of the committee.

The expert committee also found that of the 10,000 water bodies in the state, a majority were fish ponds. The committee has taken the fish ponds out of its purview because these fish ponds have intrinsic issues and protective measures. “They provide livelihood and are commercial sources so they won’t be considered,” mentioned Bhattacharjee.

“There will be hundreds of rivers covering the entire state, but that will come up once we receive the full report from all the districts,” said Bhattacharjee.

So far, reports of rivers and water bodies have come in from East Jaintia Hills and North, South, East and West Garo Hills.

The district commissioners have been advised to form district-level committees. Bhattacharjee said before the state-level committee can recommend any action, baseline data is important. To collect this data, dry and rainy seasons need to be studied. They have earmarked six months time by which all data will should come in. 

“We have instructed the DCs to open a helpline number and dedicate a WhatsApp number. Without the involvement of stakeholders at the grassroots level, nothing can go forward. People should be involved to express the issues they are facing in their areas,” said Bhattacharjee.

Lyngwa said that the components of the action plan will be advisory, regulatory, participatory, and reparative in nature.

“We are in the process of formulating the action plan. The question of funding will come up later and the source of funds will be identified on a need basis. Every action plan will be site-specific to every river and action plans will cover the whole state minus the 60 rivers and fish ponds,” said Lyngwa.

Also Read | Meghalaya: North Garo Hills road project may be completed by May

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