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Dispur for white paper on floods

- KMSS pledges eviction support

Guwahati, June 28: Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi today said he would present a white paper on the measures taken by his government to improve the lot of the state capital, which was hit by its worst flash floods yesterday.

Gogoi gave the assurance in response to questions about the status of suggestions made by various agencies, like IIT and a consultancy funded by the Asian Development Bank, to solve the city’s problem of waterlogging.

Initially, Gogoi said he was not aware about the reports but came up with the assurance after constant prodding by newspersons.

“We will come up with a white paper, which will deal with what steps we have taken, why certain things could not progress and the overall status of government initiative,” he said.

Gogoi had called the news meet to convey the steps being taken by his government to ameliorate the city’s problems.

Though Gogoi was less than convincing when confronted with probing questions, he was upfront by owning responsibility for Guwahati’s plight under his tenure and sought the co-operation of the public and the Centre in making a success of the steps being taken — and to be taken — to tackle the problem of waterlogging.

He also admitted that yesterday’s flash floods were something he had not witnessed during his life here and tackling the problem would be a challenge.

He said the city received 85mm rainfall but the waterlogging was not only because of rain. There are other factors such as hill-cutting, landslides and silting of drains.

“We will need to find out why certain areas suffered the most, such as Anil Nagar?” he said.

On deaths in landslides, he said the government had identified 377 landslide-prone areas in the city and had warned the residents to leave these areas.

“But people did not heed our warning. We will have to deal with the problems of encroachment and hill-cutting seriously or these will aggravate. We are thinking about setting up a hill and waterbody protection force,” he said.

Social welfare minister Akon Bora, who visited the affected areas today, said the administration needed to act tough to check flash floods.

Gogoi, whose government has been facing widespread criticism for not having done anything to check waterlogging despite being in power for 13 years, was accompanied by chief secretary Jitesh Khosla, additional chief secretary H.S. Das and senior officials of the home department at the news meet.

The move was seen as the government’s effort to convey its seriousness about solving the problem.

Gogoi visited the flood-hit areas yesterday and today.

BJP national vice-president and Guwahati MP Bijoya Chakraborty told reporters that she would up take up the artificial flood issue with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and ask the Centre to execute schemes to solve the manmade disaster within two years.

“I discussed the problem with Union minister for urban development M. Venkaiah Naidu today. Naiduji assured me that his ministry would sanction funds for short-term and long-term projects to solve the problem of floods in Guwahati. I also seek cooperation from the city’s residents for the success of government schemes,” she added.

The Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) asked Dispur to start an eviction drive by Monday to clear all city hills from encroachment.

KMSS vice-president Amar Bezbaruah said if the government does not start the drive within the stipulated deadline, his organisation would start an agitation.

“The KMSS will extend full support to the government in carrying out the eviction drive,” Bezbaruah said.

Encroachment and earth-cutting on hills are the prime causes of artificial floods in the city.