Guwahati: In a bid to raise voice against the Assam government’s decision to cut down almost 300 trees, many of which are over 100 years old and are home to many endangered species of birds, some leading citizens, students, civil society members and children formed a human chain on the Brahmaputra riverfront in Bharalumukh area of Guwahati on Sunday.
The trees are reportedly being cut for construction of a proposed bridge over the Brahmaputra river connecting North Guwahati and Bharalumukh.
In a memorandum addressed to public works department (PWD) minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, the group, which gathered under the banner of ‘Coordination Committee of Citizens’, said that as per the detailed project report (DPR) of the proposed bridge, there was a possibility of destruction of the existing Sankardev Park, a portion of Azan Pir Park and the open space of riverfront between Bharalumukh and Kalipur, which are home to many valuable old trees.
The group also urged the state government to construct the bridge with technical consideration so that the parks and valuable trees could be saved.
Apart from displaying placards and raising slogans requesting people of Guwahati to safeguard nature, the Citizens’ Coordination Committee also demanded the inclusion of an Environment Management Plan (EMP) in the bridge construction project so that adequate compensation for the destructed natural environment can be addressed.
“We appreciate the development activities carried out by the present state government. But at the same time, we wish that our ecosystem and environment should not be disturbed, we expect that during any development activities, the destruction of the natural environment should be minimum and also compensatory,” the committee wrote in its memorandum.
Speaking with EastMojo, Khanindra Lal Sarma, president of Pachim Guwahati Sojagata Mancha, an NGO, said that the citizens appreciate the decision of the state government to build a bridge over the Brahmaputra river that will be in favour of the people but it should be constructed in a scientific way without any destruction caused to the existing natural environment.
“If the government moves ahead with their decision without considering our concerns, we will continue with our fight to the last,” the 85-year old senior citizen added.
Pointing out to some scientific examples that have been exercised in southern states of India like Kerala, Col (Retd) RK Chaudhury, a resident of Bharalumukh area of the city, suggested that instead of cutting down the trees, the administration can uproot them by using scientific techniques and replant in some other locations, so that the existing natural environment is preserved.
“Authorities are saying that they will plant up new siblings to meet the damage caused to the environment. But we have evidence of the poor management and maintenance of the authorities in taking care of these, that ultimately turns to huge loss,” Col (retd) Chaudhury added.
Appealing the government for moving ahead with a cohesive approach to the critical environmental issue, Col (retd) PM Goswami, a senior citizen of Guwahati, expressed that the administration should sit for discussion with all stakeholders and come up with a viable solution so that development takes place without hampering the existing natural environment.
“In a democratic nation like India, the government cannot take any decision where the stakeholders are at risk. So, I would appeal to the authorities to sit and discuss with the people and come up with a viable solution,” Col (retd) PM Goswami said.
According to sources at state PWD, the length of the bridge will be around 1,600 metres, as measured from south to the north banks of Brahmaputra in the Bharalumukh area. In the north bank, the bridge will form a Y-junction and Junction 1 will meet the AT Road near Bhutnath temple, while Junction 2 will meet MG Road at the Sankardev Park in Southern bank.
In the north bank, the bridge will end at the Majgaon area and from this point, there will be a 1,150-metre viaduct connecting Majgaon and Abhayapur village.