'Anti-erosion funds have to come from the CRF and the SDRF. However, the Fince Commission has only the provision for erosion by the sea, not by rivers. It's the duty of the MPs from the region to include erosion by rivers as well in the next Fince Commission for CRF and SDRF funds for anti-erosion projects in the region' – Social activist
By our Staff Reporter
GUWAHATI, Dec 6: A whopping Rs 200 crore has been spent in the past 12 years for the protection of Majuli from erosion, without being able to protect even a lump of soil in the world’s biggest river island from the gobbling Brahmaputra. Making this public, social activist Manoj Kumar Bora has alleged that there has been large-scale corruption in the execution of projects for the protection of Majuli.
Bora is the activist who has brought the issues of Majuli, including its anti-erosion projects, under the glare of the Gauhati High Court through a public interest litigation (PIL). The High Court did form an observation committee for on-the-spot visit to the project works in 2014 so as to bring about transparency in the project works that are being executed by the Brahmaputra Board.
Bora did allege that there was huge corruption in the schemes – protection of Majuli Island (phase II and phage III). “This allegation has been corroborated by Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharati in the Winter Session of Parliament on December 3,” Bora said while addressing the press here today. “Rs 178.28 crore has been spent for the protection of Majuli from 2003-2014, but precious little was done by the Centre and the State Government towards that end. The High Court did send notices to as many as 15 departments of the Centre and the State Government after accepting the PIL on September 27, 2010. The Central Water Resources Commission and the Brahmaputra board had to pay fine of Rs 10,000 each for their respective affidavits failing to satisfy the court. Likewise, the Planning Commission and the Central Government had to pay fines of Rs 15,000 each on July 29, 2011 for not laying the required stress on flood control and anti-erosion measures. They were also reprimanded by the High Court.”
Bora said: “As many as 67 villages, including 11 xattras, were gobbled up by the Brahmapatra and the Subansiri since 1952. As many as 9,566 families have been rendered homeless due to erosion from 1969 to May 2011. However, the government has rehabilitated only 500 families. The number of homeless families has risen to 12,000 now. The land area of the river island in 1950 was 1245.12 sq. km. There was a shrinkage of 500 sq km in 2011, and there has been a shrinkage of 480 sq. km now. In 2003, the Centre entrusted the Brahmaputra Board the responsibility of protecting the river island through the pumping Rs 6.22 crore. In 2004, the Board prepared a master plan under which the Centre allocated Rs 56.07 crore in phase I, 115.99 crore in phase II and III. The works of phase I started in January 2005 and the target schedule of the project was December 2010, but the project is not yet complete. Likewise, the works of phase II and III were started in July 2009 and the target was March 2011, but the board failed to complete these two projects even today. This has exposed the hollowness of the Board that has a large number of vacant posts at the senior level. The post of its chairman had been vacant from September 1, 2010 leading the High Court to pass an order. The permanent Chairman of the Board was appointed on March 19, 2012. The vacant post of the vice chairman was also filled up on November 17, 2011. The court had also asked the Board to fill up all the vacant posts.”
Bora said: “With the observers’ committee formed by the High Court visiting the anti-erosion works on the spot on November 15, 2014 and submitting its report to the High Court, the High Court is set to give its fil verdict on January 28, 2016. The High Court heard the PIL on November 24, 2015.”
Bora blamed on it the MPs of the Northeast for non-release of sufficient funds to check erosion in Assam and other states in the region. “Anti-erosion funds have to come from the Calamity Relief Fund (CRF) and State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF). However, the Fince Commission has only the provision for erosion by the sea, not by rivers. It’s the duty of the MPs from the region to include erosion by rivers as well in the next Fince Commission for CRF and SDRF funds for anti-erosion projects in the region. Majuli MLA and minister Rajib Lochan Pegu has done precious little to protect the river island. Union minister Sarbanda Sonowal is also going to complete two years in office, but he has done nothing to protect the river island that falls under his constituency. The Brahmaputra valley doesn’t get the required importance from the Centre the way the Ganga Valley gets, for this we have to blame it on the MPs of the Northeast.”