By – Bishaldeep Kakati
There are only a few cities not only in India but also in the world, where a river flows through it and in the process enhances its beauty. Similarly, a northeastern state of India known as Assam, has a male river known as Brahmaputra that flows through most of its cities, thus making the state bloom with alluring scenic beauty. In reality, the river Brahmaputra has always been an emotion for the Assamese community. This is evident from the thing that Brahmaputra has always found his name in the writings of not only common individuals but also in the creations of many luminaries like Rupkonwar Jyotiprasad Agarwala, Lakshminath Bezbarua, Dr Bhupen Hazarika, among others. In fact, in terms of mythology, the water of Brahmaputra camouflages the legendary story of Parashuram, who after beheading his mother Renuka had to wash his hands in the river ‘Lohit’, as the axe with which he beheaded his mother got glued to his hands. Along with this, if we confabulate about the structures constructed or that are already being built over Brahmaputra; it still boasts of holding over it, one of the largest river island in the world, the smallest river island in the world, the longest bridge in India, the longest railroad bridge in India, the longest river ropeway in India etc. Moreover, it is on the banks of the river Brahmaputra itself that many tribes and communities of Assam thrive. Hence the mighty ‘Burha Luit’, since time immemorial has always been termed as the lifeline of the Assamese community.
However, even though Brahmaputra has always been termed as an ‘emotion’, in reality, the people of Assam have altogether failed to maintain Brahmaputra’s aura as they should have. But it’s high time, serious efforts must be put by the people of Assam, so as to maintain the river’s rich cultural history. If we flip over the pages of history, we would understand that the mighty Brahmaputra is a storehouse of many possibilities and mysteries. It is believed that deep underneath the Brahmaputra, there might be a possibility of finding many historical artifacts like weapons used during the Ahom reign, stone cuttings and also the magical scriptures of the Black Magical Capital of India, ‘Mayong’. But with the passing of each year, this mystic river has simply become the storehouse of waste products, polluted items, non biodegradable wastes etc. And this dilemma of pollution of Brahmaputra and its subsequent banks has mainly occurred because of the reckless and careless attitude displayed by the dwellers of the state. No doubt the dwellers of Assam consider Brahmaputra as revered, but these are the same people who become careless when we talk about keeping the Brahmaputra clean. The matter of the fact is that Brahmaputra has a lot of tributaries and distributaries, which if polluted leads to but one thing – a polluted Brahmaputra! An example of this is the Bharalu River which lies in the heart of the Guwahati city. Once a tributary that boasted of passing through the heart of the capital city, today reels under pollution of all sorts. People passing by the river these days have to face foul smell, witness floating waste products which end up falling into the Brahmaputra. And these are the things that are actually acting as barriers in the process of converting Brahmaputra into an emotion in practical aspects and not simply in terms of words.
There are two directions where efforts must be put in to bring back the lost glory of Brahmaputra. Firstly, keeping the Brahmaputra and its banks clean and secondly, escalating the potential tourism viability of Brahmaputra. When we talk about keeping the Brahmaputra and its banks clean, in reality, it has been a major issue that actually has not been properly dealt with as of now. But if we draw examples of Cheonggyecheon in Seoul, South Korea, we can very well believe that it is not impossible. The same river in 1940 became heavily polluted and because of the health risk it was eventually paved over for sanitation reasons and an elevated freeway was built over it. But with the help of massive government effort, the river has been restored and now is an oasis in a concrete jungle, which acts as a boost to the local biodiversity and economic development. And this example can be an inspiration for the Assam Government in terms of coming out with innovative plans and schemes to restore the mighty Brahmaputra by making it free from waste products both biodegradable and non biodegradable. In addition to this, the Assam government can also come out with policies like Rivers for life Project, currently being implemented by ICLEI Africa, where the government can lay down strict rules and various guiding policies that regulate activities within and near the river. Strict by-laws must also be implemented by the Government by relating it to The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) ACT, 1974 and The Environment (Protection) Act, 1984 and also by imposing fines and penalties against those who pollute the river. Therefore, for proper implementation of such policies, a city office for preservation of Brahmaputra can be set up in Guwahati dedicated to work for the implementation of innovative steps and policies taken by the government to prevent Brahmaputra from being polluted.
The second aspect is its tourism factor. The tourism aspect would not only enhance the beauty of Brahmaputra to a great extent, but would also help the state to flourish in terms of river tourism. No doubt activities like night drive over the Brahmaputra are available in terms of ‘Alfresco Grand’ and others, but still a lot needs to be done in this aspect. Specially to beautify Brahmaputra at night, tall projectors or infrastructures can be constructed with sound system that will not only illuminate the surface water of Brahmaputra by presenting various tales and stories related to the history, mythology and the social aspect of the river as it flows through the city, but would also create melodious evenings. In addition to this, street lights along its banks and river lights can also be introduced that would further beautify the river. Furthermore, the Brahmaputra also consists of numerous banks and in such banks, with proper planning, if seating arrangements are made for the crowd, the people could experience the day and nightlife over a river.
Nevertheless, Brahmaputra is both literally and metaphorically beautiful. And that is the reason it is rightly termed as the emotion of the Assamese Community. But in order to convert Brahmaputra as an emotion in the real sense of the term, a little bit of effort has to be put by both the government and the people in terms of its cleanliness and tourism aspects. And if it can be done it would not only glorify the name of Assam at a global level but would also further beautify the creative works of legendary individuals on Brahmaputra.