Thirty-two areas have been identified along the two rivers – Umkhrah and Umshyrpi – for setting up of Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) even as hefty fines have been imposed against direct discharging of sewage into water bodies.
Forty-five days was also given to the concerned authority to take corrective action against mining activities in and around the Umkhen river, which will become the main source of water supply for the new Shillong township.
This was informed by the Chief Secretary DP Wahlang after a meeting on rejuvenation and restoration of these three major rivers of Shillong in the presence of the Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma and Deputy Chief Minister in-charge Urban Affairs Sniawbhalang Dhar on Friday.
Different stakeholders including traditional heads and members of civil society groups also attended the meeting, which also highlighted the operative part of the orders passed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) towards cleaning and reviving the water bodies of these major rivers.
“The basic focus was basically on the collective responsibility and also working together with one objective and that is to clean up Umkhrah, Umshyrpi and Umkhen which will be future source of water supply scheme in new Shillong,” Wahlang told reporters.
“It was a good meeting as all of us was in one mind and unanimously agreed that we should work together with the various agencies and the civil society groups and the headmen and I am sure that concrete results will be visible very soon,” he added.
Asked on the steps taking to stop direct discharge of liquid and solid waste into the rivers, Wahlang said in his presentation during the meeting he had shown the drone images of Wah Umkhrah right from the source up to Mawlai area and also Umshyrpi right from the source up to the Umshyrpi bridge and “over there we have seen concrete evidence of direct discharge into the rivers”.
He said that the first internal meeting on the matter was actually held on April 6, in which it was decided that the need to consult with all the other stakeholders and make it a bigger collective body towards addressing this problem.
“And since the last one week we have imposed hefty penalty. In fact anyone discharging directly into the rivers and anyone having faulty septic tanks and defective septic tanks if they don’t repair in 10-days’ time a fine will be imposed at the rate of Rs 500 per day not one time but Rs 500 per day till they seal the septic tank or they ensure the discharge does not make its way directly to the water bodies,” Wahlang informed.
“So a lot of decisions have been taken on April 6 meeting and also in today’s meeting in which I highlighted to all the headmen and environmental groups on what actions have been taken as it is time we all wake up as the situation is alarming and it is a collective effort only which will see us through,” he asserted.
Further, the chief secretary informed that NGT order had directed the need to ensure liquid waste is not discharged directly into the rivers.
“(In view of this), 32 areas have been identified – 20 along Umkhrah river and 12 along the Umshyrpi river – and they are known as the fall-off areas in which we need to setup STPs and five of them are under construction and the remaining we are looking for land. Wherever government land is available we will set up these STPs and if not, we have asked for the cooperation of the local dorbars to give us land to set up these STPs as per the direction of the NGT,” he said.
As far as the Umkhen river is concerned, Wahlang said, “Umkhen we have problem right from the source and we will be taking action as some mining activities is going on around that area. We have given about 45 days to take corrective actions as far as Umkhen is concerned.”
“As far as Umkhrah and Umshyrpi are concerned it will be a long drawn process because the problem is very severe in fact. All the localities have seen what is happening where and we have given video shots and we have given pictorial representation of garbage being dump into the river and sewage being dumped and discharged directly into the rivers,” he said.
Whether any timeline has been fixed to address the issues concerning these rivers, the chief secretary however said, “It will be a little time consuming, we have not fix a timeline but we will be setting up a core group as suggested by the chief minister to monitor whatever we have decided today so it is just not a talkshop but also action is taken on whatever we have discussed today.”
Asked if the role of the district council will also be taken into consideration, Wahlang said, “As far as solid and liquid waste management is concerned, in fact today we shared one very important order of the district council empowering the headmen to impose and levy fines on the citizens outside the municipal areas and with that the headmen are empowered and enabling provision is there in the law and I am sure that the headmen will make full use of the power that is given to them and defined within the law.”
With regards to protection of the catchment areas, the chief secretary said, “We also talked about plantation in today’s meeting but the immediate focus at hand in the meeting today was on the cleanliness aspects of the two rivers and Umkhen river the third one at the source. We didn’t go beyond the sources as far as Umkhen river is concerned but for the catchment areas yes plantation activities have been made and I am sure with the cooperation of all this will be fructify very soon.”
Meanwhile, the chief secretary informed that Rs 110 crore of money has already been ringfenced as far as NGT is concerned for the cleaning activities in and around Shillong town.
“A lot of activities being taken up within the municipal area for the Shillong Municipal Board, funding which will come from AMRUT 2.0 as well as Swachh Bharat Management (SBM Urban) and 15th Finance Commission will also pitched in. There is no amount that has been earmarked but funds will be avail because Rs 110 crore of money has already been ringfenced as far as NGT is concerned for the cleaning activities in and around Shillong town,” he added.