Monumental neglect leaves Umanda at God's mercy
Roof of Shiva temple leaking, water filter & solar lights defunct, toilets in shambles, result of GMDA’s beautification drive nil
BY OUR STAFF REPORTER
GUWAHATI, Aug 9: Nestled in the heart of the mighty and scenic Brahmaputra in Guwahati, the Peacock Island or Umanda as it is widely known, has been a major tourist attraction of the capital city. But due to utter negligence of the State government, the island - which has the distinction of being the smallest river island in the world - is now fighting for its survival.
While there are demands from circles for heritage site status, the island - with a population of one person and thousands of daily visitors - is reeling under acute scarcity of even basic amenities. Though the Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA) reportedly took up a project last year for beautification of the island, little has changed till date.
Questions are also being raised on the Sri Sri Umanda Devalaya Parichala Samiti, the governing body of the island which is headed by the Deputy Commissioner, as preservation and development measures have not been visible so far.
Umakanta Sarma, the lone resident of the island, who is also the head priest of the temple, informed The Sentinel that no renovation work has been undertaken at the temple which dates back to the 1800s. "Cracks are visible on its walls. Even God is having to pass sleepless nights here as water leaks into the main temple through the cracks whenever it rains," he said.
While taking a round of the island, The Sentinel team also found that despite a ban, plastic bags were strewn all around the place.
"We are here despite so many problems just for the sake of serving God," said Sarma, as he lamented that no drinking water is available in the island. "We have to drink water from the river and for all other purposes too, we use the same. Though the administration built a water filter, it is of no use as there is no electricity here," he rued.
Solar lights were provided by the Assam Power Distribution Corporation Limited, but these too function erratically.
"They (solar lights) are defunct after lightening struck the panel few months back. We informed the APDCL, but they are paying no heed to it," Sarma informed.
The island has no proper sanitation facility as well. The three mobile toilets installed by the GMDA are in dilapidated condition, and only a person with a heart bold enough to dare lose his or her leg can use it.
There is no night watchman or security guard on the island. Taking advantage of this, thieves broke into the temple two years back and looted some valuable items.
When The Sentinel inquired about the famous golden langurs which had once made the island their colony, a priest who works in the temple during daytime, said that only five of them are left in the island. Stating that neither the zoo authority nor the Veteriry department officials had ever visited the island to look after them, he said, "Now there is only a male and four female golden langurs. We doubt that their numbers would increase unless the Zoo authorities intervene." He also alleged that the Zoo authority had taken two langurs from the Island, promising to return them later, but have not yet done so.
"The administration and the government of Assam should do something to make this place more attractive. It seems this place have been left to its own fate by the government concerned," a Gujarati couple was overheard conversing after returning from the island in the Inland Water Transport Corporation ferry.