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Majuli ‘failure’ irks HC
- Brahmaputra Board chairman told to appear in court

Jorhat, April 6: Gauhati High Court has directed the Brahmaputra Board chairman to personally appear in court on May 6 in connection with a public interest litigation filed by a Majuli resident charging the board with completely failing to protect the island from annual floods and erosion.

Manoj Bora, president of the Assam Yuva Parishad and a resident of Majuli, had filed the PIL in 2010, alleging that though the Centre had assigned the board the task of carrying out anti-erosion projects on the island in 2003, the latter had not taken adequate steps to check erosion. Most of the projects undertaken by the board have remained incomplete though the deadline has long passed, it said.

Accepting the PIL, the court had issued showcause notices to 15 central and state government departments to state the reasons for “failing miserably to protect the lives and property” of the people of Majuli from floods and erosion over the years.

This is the first time the high court has accepted a PIL on Majuli’s protection though the issue had been making headlines for years now.

The island has been witness to largescale erosion and floods since 1950, when an earthquake measuring over 8.6 on the Richter scale changed the course of the Brahmaputra.

It has been reduced to a mere 650 square km from 1,244 square km in 1950, with flooding and erosion by the Brahmaputra destroying nearly 8,699 houses. The board had been assigned the task of working out projects to protect the island, keeping in view the magnitude of the destruction by the river.

The court also had directed the Union government to wake up to the potential problems that residents of the island face during the monsoon. It asked the board to ascertain how much money the Centre could pay to rehabilitate victims in the event of a big flood on the island. It also directed both the ministry of water resources and the board to “tell the court frankly” if they were not interested in solving the problems faced by the residents of the island so that alternative arrangements could be made.

Following the initial court directive, the Brahmaputra Board had set a deadline of March 31, 2011, to complete the projects, which was subsequently extended to October 31, 2011. Now, it has again been extended till 2014.

The court had recently directed the board’s counsel to visit the island along with its officials to take stock of the anti-erosion projects being undertaken there. However, the counsel was not present in court on April 3, following which the court directed the board chairman, Kashindra Yadav, to appear in the next hearing.

The litigant’s counsel, S.S. Dey, had, however, made several visits to the island to take stock of the situation and had also visited sites where the board had taken up anti-erosion projects.