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Saving Amchang

Law-abiding citizens of Guwahati are all looking forward to the Hon'ble Gauhati High Court taking a final decision on the issue of protection of the Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary.

Amchang

Sentinel Digital Desk

Law-abiding citizens of Guwahati are all looking forward to the Hon'ble Gauhati High Court taking a final decision on the issue of protection of the Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary. It is heartening to note that the Hon'ble High Court has directed the Assam Chief Secretary to submit a report by next week apprising it of steps being taken for conducting a demarcation survey of the Wildlife Sanctuary which is so important for the overall health of the premier city of the Northeast. That Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary has been encroached upon by several groups of people over the past several years has remained a matter of concern for all right-thinking people. Environment protection groups have been clamouring for the protection of Amchang for years, but the government refused to lend an ear. Way back in 2002, the government did make a halfhearted attempt to evict the encroachers. But petty political considerations allegedly outweighed the interest of the importance of protecting and saving the sanctuary which is home to several wildlife species including elephants. Another attempt made by the previous BJP-led government was also met with a lot of opposition by certain groups with a vested interest, with some self-styled human rights groups even trying to throw legal spanners. But then, law-abiding citizens and all those who want the protection of the environment from the core of their hearts have been always optimistic that the Hon'ble High Court will ultimately ensure that the culprits responsible for strangulating the wildlife sanctuary will be ousted. While the directions passed by the Hon'ble High Court has assured the people that Amchang will be protected and the encroachers evicted, what is also causing concern among the citizens is the laxity of the authorities in ensuring the protection of the wetlands in and around the city, some of them being Deepor Beel, Borsola Beel, Sarusala Beel, Silsako Beel and Bondajan. The various wetlands of Guwahati have continued to face threats despite the enactment of the Guwahati Water Bodies (Preservation and Conservation) Act in 2008. The Act had particularly notified three wetlands – Deepor Beel, Silsako and Borsola-Sorusola – for protection, with the Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA) website saying that urban water bodies are important in that they not only act as a reservoir for rainwater run-off but are also a refuge for migratory and local birds as well as having the potential for becoming eco-tourism parks. But while restoration and conservation of these lakes are said to be one of the primary focus areas for the flood mitigation programme of the government, the ground realities do not appear to ascertain this. A major hotel, an institute of national repute, a research organization and an organization claiming to represent a particular community have been occupying space that belongs to Silsako. Several powerful and well-connected people have been reportedly sitting on Deepor Beel either illegally or by managing to 'regularize' land that should be rightfully protected as part of it. The Bondajan wetland is shrinking rapidly every day, thus restricting the flow of Silsako's excess water to the Brahmaputra. Hills are being rampantly cut and destroyed within the Ri Bhoi district of Meghalaya bordering Guwahati, with the southern part of the city facing increasing flash floods, silt flow and water-logging. These are issues that law-abiding citizens think should be seen at the same level and with the same urgency as that of protecting Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary. Indeed, the hon'ble Gauhati High Court cannot go after every issue of protection hills, wetlands, government lands, monuments, rivers and streams. Protecting these falls within the list of bounden duties of the government. Unfortunately, successive governments have failed to protect these so vital assets which Nature had gifted to Guwahati. It is a fact that there is a nexus of unscrupulous politicians, corrupt government officers and criminals that has been causing irreparable damage to the natural assets of Guwahati. This not only needs to be stopped but strong orders are required so that evictions are carried out mercilessly and earlier government orders converting wetlands and hills as patta land are also reversed. Guwahati cannot afford to lose its wetlands, hills, streams, wildlife sanctuaries and reserved forests.

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