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Saving the Bharalu

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Citizens of Guwahati should hang down their heads in shame for what they have done to the Bharalu river that flows through the city from the Meghalaya hills in the south to the Brahmaputra in the north. Equally ashamed should be the officers of Guwahati Municipal Corporation, Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority, the Pollution Control Board, Assam for the pushing the Bharalu to death. The elected representatives of the people of the four constituencies that cover most areas of Guwahati city too should be ashamed for the same reason. All of us – yes us – are responsible in some degree or the other for having contributed towards reducing the Bharalu into a stinking dirty stagnant water body with high toxicity levels. As has been reported by this newspaper earlier, what is most alarming is that while the FCO2 level of the river has increase manifold in the past few years, it is the highest near the State Zoo. This means, the zoo animals will be the first victims in the event of this highly toxic water – if at all one can refer to the liquid comprising the Bharalu as water – entering the State Zoo campus. The Pollution Control Board had a couple of weeks ago found that the concentration of faecal coliform bacteria, a common microbiological containment of water, in the river is around 20,000 Most Probable Number (MPN) per 100 ml. The maximum permissible limit and desirable limits for faecal coliform count for bathing waters is 500 MPN/100 ml. This, according to health experts, could cause serious diseases, including diarrhoea and other stomach-related ailments. The biological oxygen demand (BOD) of the Bharalu has been found to be 52 mg per litre – which is much in excess of the permissible limit of 3 mg per litre. Moreover, the obnoxious smell generated by the Bharalu during the dry season is also hazardous to human health, experts have already said. The latest news is that the River Rejuvenation Committee set up by the Pollution Control Board has submitted a proposal to the government to take a slew of measures to make the water of Bharalu fit for at least bathing. For that however, all of us – citizens, the GMC, the GMDA, the four MLAs and one Lok Sabha member, the NGOs, the universities and colleges located in Guwahati, and the city-based student bodies and mahila samitis – will have to play our respective roles. Once the Bharalu is pulled out of its tragedy, all other rivers will also see a ray of hope.