The Meghalaya Government is making an attempt to clean up Wah (River) Umkhrah and Wah Umshyrpi, whereas the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has declared that the state has 10 polluted rivers, which is third highest in North Eastern region. The state with the most number of polluted rivers in the region is Assam (28), followed by Manipur (12). The assessment was conducted in 2015 and identified 302 polluted stretches on 275 rivers.
According to the Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan, of 445 rivers, 275 have polluted stretches with Maharashtra topping the chart with the maximum number.
The polluted stretches include 49 in Maharashtra, 28 in Assam, 21 in Madhya Pradesh, 20 in Gujarat, 17 in West Bengal, 15 in Karnataka, 13 each in Kerala and Uttar Pradesh, 12 each in Manipur and Odisha, 10 in Meghalaya, nine in Jammu and Kashmir, eight each in Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand and Rajasthan, seven each in Tamil Nadu and Telangana, six in Andhra Pradesh, five in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Sikkim and Uttarakhand, three in Nagaland and two each in Haryana, Punjab and Tripura. Delhi and Daman and Diu each have one polluted stretch of river.
CPCB monitors the water quality of 445 rivers across the country and has made a long term assessment of water quality of rivers with respect to Biochemical oxygen demand the indicator of organic pollution.
Meghalaya has been boasting of its traditional institutions, but the high rise building, including the educational institutions along the Wah Umkhrah and Wah Umshyrpi, yet another river- turned- drain, have contributed to the narrowing down of the rivers in the city, right under the nose of the respective headmen and district administration. How does one rectify such senseless attitude towards the environment is every one’s guess.
The Urban Affairs Department is involved in various litigations with the alleged encroachers, while the same claims to have been victimized by the authorities and various pressure groups, let the final judgment come from the Judiciary, hopefully it is binding too.
The resolution of the KHADC to earmark about One Crores of rupees to clean up Wah Umkhrah within its jurisdiction was a welcome sign, but will one time cleaning change the scenario? It is sad to note that the habitats away from the river banks do not find it necessary to be part of cleaning programme or awareness. This section of population confidently claims they are not responsible for the problem and blame it on the population along the river banks. This blame game had divided the society; now all refuse to accept that we are all sitting on a volcano when it comes to the dumping of garbage all over the city.
The blame game had in fact contributed to the choking of the already shrunk rivers turned drains, yet no one accepts that they have contributed to this problem. Any garbage once out from one compound is said to be the problem of the district administration. The concept of Wah Umkhrah and Wah Umshyrpi being the property of the government has been furiously abused, neither the public nor the government could prevent this abuse under the present situation.
The situation needs a wakeup call from the likeminded people who have the willpower to prevent further abuse and create awareness for protection of natural resources and conserving our water bodies. If the government accepts that both the mentioned rivers are no longer rivers, and have in fact been turned into drains, then maybe the authorities will find it easier to maintain and impose regulations to protect what still remains of these once beautiful rivers running through the heart of Shillong.