Northeast Diary: Vanishing lakes and a tale of two cities

Incessant rain earlier this week turned India’s IT capital into a “city of lakes”, throwing life out of gear and forcing people to leave their apartment buildings, luxury villas and high-end cars and take refuge in hotels and other safer places.
The misery and helplessness of the Bangaloreans were akin to those living in Guwahati, which along with the rest of Assam battles the flood fury every year. And it’s not just clogged drains or poor drainage networks that trigger floods and waterlogging in cities. Vanishing wetlands due to encroachment and rapid urbanisation are also contributing to these woes.
The Deepor Beel, a freshwater lake and a Ramsar site in Assam’s capital city, has been facing encroachment for several years, shrinking from over 4,000 hectares in its heyday to 500 hectares currently. Similarly, the Silsako wetland is severely encroached upon. It has shrunk from 340 hectares in 2001 to 133 hectares in 2012.
Last year, a TOI report highlighted how wetlands in Guwahati were choking and had lost the capacity to hold water, thereby triggering massive waterlogging during the monsoon season.
Wetlands in the Brahmaputra floodplain – numbering over 3,000 – help in flood attenuation by acting as a natural flood reservoir. But as many as 87 wetlands are facing various forms of “disturbance”, according to a study quoted by this writer in a previous article.
The situation is similar in the Karnataka capital. A report titled ‘Performance Audit of Management of Storm Water in Bengaluru Urban Area’ released by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India in September 2021 sounded a wake-up alarm for civic authorities.
It flagged large-scale encroachment of lakes and waterbodies. “The changes in land use such as decrease in vegetation cover and open spaces and increase in built up area resulted in loss of inter-connectivity between water bodies impacting effective recharge of ground water and increase in runoff of storm water,” according to the report.
Citing a study by the Indian Institute of Science, the CAG report said that Bengaluru (covering an area of 741 sq km) had 1,452 water bodies with a total storage capacity of 35 TMC in the early 1800s. By 2016, the number of water bodies in the same area reduced to 194 with a storage capacity of 5 TMC.
It claimed the city municipal corporation, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), was yet to remove 714 encroachments out of the identified 2,626 near water bodies in various zones.
About 41 and 51 water bodies, which existed in Koramangala and Vrishabhavathi valleys, respectively, were reduced to 8 and 13 by the year 2008 indicating the severity of lake conversion.
So what’s the way out? Revival and conservation of wetlands, anti-encroachment drive near natural water bodies and eco-friendly urban planning could help mitigate the problem of flooding and waterlogging to some extent.

Mizoram gets ready for key boundary meeting

Ahead of a chief minister-level meeting between Assam and Mizoram this month, the latter’s boundary committee on Friday put its stamp of approval on an “approach paper” reflecting the state's standpoint.
The Mizoram State Boundary Committee headed by deputy chief minister Tawnluia finalised the paper after consultations with representatives of political parties and NGOs. However, there was a minor hiccup after the opposition Congress and People’s Conference pulled out of the panel citing dissatisfaction with the way it is functioning.
The “approach paper” will be presented during a meeting between Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma and his Mizoram counterpart Zoramthanga in Delhi this month, according to a PTI report.
The panel also decided to conduct a joint verification of disputed areas along with representatives from Assam. The two NE states share a 164.6-km inter-state boundary with Assam.
For the past few months, Assam has been simultaneously engaging with multiple neighbours to solve land boundary rows, which date back to the colonial era. It has already signed what is called ‘Namsai Declaration’ with Arunachal Pradesh and an agreement with Meghalaya.
The state has concluded ministerial-level talks with Mizoram and is getting ready for the key meeting in Delhi. Related story here.

The Open Magazine of India by Artmotion Network (

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