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River Wah Umkhrah flows through the capital Shillong and has been talked about and having a history of its own and also the surroundings. The banks of the River were certainly a patch of beauty, like the green grass and a little above are paddy fields. Every year however in the onset of monsoon, the level of the water rises, but not to the extent of over flooding the paddy crops and vegetation and also the playgrounds, including the football and cricket fields. However, this scenic description of river Wah Umkhrah had gradually changed during the last two or three decades. Unscrupulous land greedy persons had staked claims of most of the lands along the river banks and started construction of multi-storeyed buildings, extending even right into the brim of the water of the river. These are unlawful intrusions not only against the laws of the lands but also the laws of nature itself.

Buildings have therefore encroached the river, like Petrol Pumps, Hotels and other business constructions, motor garages and makeshift huts that constitute a vast slum area. This has also caused erosion of the river and its width span. The successive government had only tried and failed to stop this illegal intrusion into Wah Umkhrah, especially as no action was taken against the encroachers, the hotel and petrol pump owners, who obviously are patronized by political forces. Yet river Wah Umkhrah continues to be squeezed by the parties having vested interests.

First and foremost, the question is, do these buildings comply with the Municipal laws on construction, which should ensure safety to the people around. These buildings have not incorporated building by-laws and do not have the structural strength to withstand an earthquake, especially that the entire Shillong area is prone to earthquake like the greatest quake in memory on June 12 in the year 1897. The question is therefore when such a shakeup revisits Shillong. Surely there would be havoc in the length and breadth of river Wah Umkhrah. Therefore there is a great risk in the buildings, intruding into the waters of Wah Umkhrah, during the monsoon and also when earthquakes occur.

The need of an Hour

The State Government should, therefore, take note on the vulnerability of these buildings, endangering human lives. It is most befitting that state Government conduct an enquiry commission or committee of how out of nowhere, these building has come up along the bank of the river Wah Umkhrah and that due penalties should be accorded. Enquiries should, therefore, be in-depth to include social vulnerability analysis, physical vulnerability and also especially environmental vulnerability. All these buildings especially concrete along the bank of Wah Umkhrah need physical vulnerability analysis. These structures are seen to be poorly maintained and need detailed structural analysis. The slum pockets in the course of the river have also to be removed accordingly, especially regarding the safety of the slum dwellers themselves. The river Wah Umkhrah is therefore presently exposed to different negative forces which have made the river only as drainage of the filth of the locality and also unauthorized human occupation along these banks.

Sumar Sing Sawian

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