The expert committee for restoration and protection of water bodies in Meghalaya has found that there are over 10,000 water bodies in the State with majority of them being fish ponds.
However, the committee has decided to exclude fish ponds from its purview because fish ponds have their own intrinsic issues and protective measures besides providing livelihood and commercial sources to owners or the community.
While all water bodies, lakes, ponds and stretches of rivers which are deemed to be polluted will be taken up by the committee, a total of 60 rivers have also been kept out of the purview of the committee since there are separate committees already looking into these rivers.
While seven rivers – Umkhrah, Umshyrpi, Kyrhuhkhla, Nonbah, Umtrew, Lukha and Myntdu are dealt with by River Rejuvenation Committee, 53 wetlands are looked after by the State Wetland Authority.
The committee today held a meeting with the Deputy Commissioners (DCs) of all the districts to discuss the reports regarding rivers and water bodies received from five districts.
According to the reports, East Jaiñtia Hills has nine water bodies, East Garo Hills has 26, South Garo Hills has 12, North Garo Hills has 24 and West Garo Hills has 25.
Member of the committee Naba Bhattacharjee said that the State action plan for protection of water bodies including rivers will be prepared only after receiving the full report from all the districts.
During the meeting, the DCs have also been advised to set up their own District Level Committee to carry out baseline studies of the condition of water bodies in both dry and rainy seasons.
“The committee believes that before they can recommend any action, the District Level Committees have to get a baseline data which is of utmost importance. To collect this data they need two seasons to study – dry and rainy season. The DCs have earmarked six months time by which all data will be coming in,” Bhattacharjee said.
He also said that the DCs have also been instructed to open a helpline number along with a WhatsApp number so that stakeholders at the grassroot level can provide inputs and views on the issues in their areas.
Bhattacharjee said that once the committee received the information from all the districts, it would collate the information and come up with expert recommendations to deal with the different ills which are affecting the different water bodies.
Meanwhile, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest & Head of Forest Force, Baiar Kupar Lyngwa said that the committee is in the process of formulating the State action plan of which the components will be advisory, regulatory, participatory and reparative in nature.
“The question of funding will come up later on and the source of funds will be identified on a need basis. Every action plan will be site specific to every river and action plans will cover the whole State minus the 60 rivers and fish ponds,” Lyngwa said.
The expert committee was constituted on June 23 this year in accordance with the order of the Meghalaya High Court of Meghalaya.
The mandate of the committee is to advise the State government on measures to be taken for restoration and protection of water bodies in the State.