| The dried-up Jagalia river. Picture by Kishore Talukdar |
Borjhar, May 7: A river that finds expression in litterateur Mamoni Raisom Goswami’s works and is a source of livelihood for at least 25,000 farmers in Assam’s south Kamrup is dying a slow death.
In the dry season, Jagalia has little water for boro paddy cultivation. In the monsoon, its overflows its shallow bed and destroys sali paddy saplings.
Residents of the area say this has been the trend for the past decade.
The river originates in Meghalaya and meanders 30km through the farmlands of Rani, 30km from Guwahati, before joining the Batha.
In her book, Dotal Hatir Uye Khowa Haoda (The Moth-eaten Houdah of a Tusker), Goswami recalls how as a child she used to admire her elephant take a dip in the Jagalia. The picture is all but rosy now.
“It is a monumental problem for us because our livelihood depends on the river. During the monsoon, water from the river overflows and destroys about 80 per cent of the sali paddy while in winter there is hardly any water,” Rajmohan Thakuria, secretary of Kumeria Pathar Parisalana Samiti, told this correspondent.
The samiti, registered in 1992, comprises farmers of 23 villages.
Prof. M.M. Goswami of Gauhati University said since the river runs through farming fields, the silt carried by rainwater deposits on the river bed makes it shallow. “Besides, the growth of weeds in some parts along the river course hampers its flow,” he added.
Farmers and Thakuria alleged that spurs erected for construction of a 50ft concrete bridge over the river was affecting its flow and that the public works department (PWD) had not paid heed to matters relating to river ecology.
The under-construction bridge links Gargara with Borduar.
“At the initial stage of construction of a concrete bridge, spurs are erected to prevent flow of excess water. However, the spurs have not been removed which has affected the river’s flow. The department has just gone ahead to complete a task without considering aspects that are detrimental to the river,” Thakuria alleged.
There are two more concrete bridges (of 40feet each) over the river linking Tiniali with Rani and Mirza with Chandubi.
Another area of concern is the depletion of fish species in the river. Once the abode of small fish species, including ornamental fish, the river is all but its original self today.
“The fishermen of Gargara who are dependent on the river are the worst affected,” Thakuria said.
Rearing of livestock has also been affected as the river doesn’t have enough water now, he added.