Sola beel, one of the notable wetlands of Guwahati city, is situated near Paltan Bazaar. It has been identified as a large water storage beel (lake). The beel once provided a habitat for a large number of flora and fauna and receives rainwater from nearest hills and plains. Sola beel consists of the Barsola and the Sarusola. The misfortune of this beel (the composite) started when the Revenue Department initiated the process of issuing land documents to the people who started residing on its banks. While issuing such land documents, the importance of this wetland as a storm water reservoir was not taken into consideration. Encroachment started on the lake and as a result, the size of the beel started shrinking rapidly.
The Sarusola beel serves the Chandmari, Gandhibasti, Solapar, Ulubari, Manipuribasti, Fancybazar, Panbazar, Paltanbazar, Lakhtokia, Tokobari, AT Road (near the Police Reserve), Satribari and Athgoan etc areas as a storm water reservoir. Due to encroachment, the beel has been blocked at present which has resulted in inundation of large areas at a slight downpour. The blockage of the beel is creating artificial floods in Lakhtokia, Krishnagar, Chatribari etc. The Barsola beel, the largest lake in the city of Guwahati, is also under similar threat.
The government allowed construction in the Sola beel disregarding the resolution of high-level committee on wetland conservation conducted in July 18, 1995. According to the resolution no more settlement would be allowed in and around the beel area. The resolution also called for steps by the Revenue Department to cancel all the allotments made earlier in and around the wetland area. Following the decision of the meeting, the Revenue Department had cancelled allotment on about 30 bighas of the wetland area through a letter (No RSS 286/94/12 dated the July 19, 1995). Disregarding the fact the government allowed extension of K C Das College, construction of eye hospital and allotted lands to businessmen. Barsola beel on the other hand was given away to the tourism department and also private organizations and business men. For tourism department, the central part of the wetland was allotted.
The Sola beel Unnayan Samiti filed PILs against the State Revenue department for two times once in 2000 and other in 2006 to save this wetland from encroachment. In response to the first PIL, the High Court of Guwahati ordered the state government to take care of all the wetlands of the state. In spite of the direction by the court, the Revenue department allotted lake bed for construction. The Samiti moved the High Court against the administration with a contempt of court case. In response to the next PIL, a stay order was directed by the court.
The first PIL (Misc Case No 3125/2006) has been settled in the HC of Guwahati. The second PIL is still under the consideration of HC of Guwahati.
The followings are some of the highlights of court directions and government and public actions:
The state government had, for the first time, mooted a proposal to save the beel from extinction. But barring the construction of a boundary wall along a section of the beel, nothing much has been done to protect it.
A resolution of the high-level committee was taken on the conservation of the beel on July 18, 1995 stating that no more settlement should be given in and around the beel area. The resolution also called for steps by the Revenue Department to cancel all the allotments made earlier in and around the wetland area. Following the decision of the meeting, the Revenue Department had cancelled allotment on about 30 bighas of the wetland area through a letter.
Deepar beel Management Authority was formed by the State Government to oversee the conservation and development of Deepar beel . It remains effectively non-functional till date.
Sola beel Unnayan Samiti, have been drawing the attention of the administration to keep the beel free from the clutches of the land hungry people. The Samiti also moved the Guwahati High Court.
January hearing-The Guwahati High Court ordered the state government to take steps to protect the Sarusola beel and other wetlands around the State capital city.
In May the Ministry Of Environment and Forest (MOEF) directed the Assam government to ensure completion of operations against encroachments by September 30, 2002.
In August, the district administration declared both Borsola and Sarusola beels to be reserve wetlands.
Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) started to dump waste in Paschim Boragaon closer to the water body.
In January, following the High Court's directive, the district administration initiated steps to remove encroachments on Sola beel.
Deepar beel finalized the venue for the 33rd National rowing competitions.
Assam Science, Technology, and Environment Council started a massive desilting and digging project at Deepar with an objective of increasing water storage and deterring further encroachment into the wetland.
Dispur launched a grandiose project to develop the Borsola beel
into a tourism-cum-recreation hub. In December the Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority (GDMA) took up a project under the 11th Finance Commission award. The first phase of the project entailed cleaning water hyacinth from the beel
, removal of sludge and development of infrastructure such as connecting roads, sluice gates, plantations and landscaping.
Creation of recreational facilities such as boating, restaurants and shopping arcades were included in the second phase of the project. The aim was to convert the water body into a “hot spot” tourist destination. The GMDA awarded the contract to a Pune-based firm, Arieff De Tox Incineration Limited, at an estimated cost of Rs 5.46 crore.
Arieff De Tox Incineration Limited had constructed an 800-metre stretch of a jogger’s track. A part of it collapsed. The firm is did not take up desiltation and construction of peripheral roads. Even the sewerage treatment plant was left in a half-finished state.
The Greater Guwahati Wetland Preservation Committee plans to undertake a survey to prepare a status report on the wetlands.
The dead line of work by the Arieff De Tox Incineration Limited was extended till March 31.
In January, the Revenue Department had allotted a plot of six bighas of Barsola beel to the Tourism Development Corporation for construction of a tourist lodge.
The revenue department allotted land inside a part of Sarusola beel to a college, an eye hospital and some businessmen, the people residing in its fringe areas also extended the areas under their possession by encroaching upon the beel land. Some localities also had emerged on the areas illegally extracted from this wetland. The 76-bigha area of the beel was mostly under encroachment.
In September, the Solabeel Unnayan Samiti moved the High Court against the administration with a contempt of court case.
A two-member bench of the Guwahati High Court issued a stay order on September 21 on the building project in response to a petition (Misc Case No 3125/2006) filed by the Unnayan Samiti secretary Biplabananda Choudhury.
The Save Guwahati Build Guwahati (SGBG) urged the State Government and the district administration to take immediate steps to clear all encroachments on wetlands and natural drainage channels to rid the city of its perennial water logging problem.
Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA) has invited sealed proposal for detailed project report from interested consultants for the restoration and development of the water body.
Guwahati Water bodies (Preservation and Conservation) Act 2008 came into action. The new act aims to preserve, protect, conserve, regulate and maintain the water bodies. It proposes to reduce the problem of artificial flooding by developing the water bodies into natural water reservoirs and converting them into eco-tourism centres.
The Brihattar Chatribari Unnayan Samiti submitted a memorandum to the Deputy Commissioner, Kamrup (Metro) demanding immediate steps to restore Sarusola beel in compliance with the directive of the Guwahati High Court.