Population growth, increased economic activity, the expansion and increase in the amount of untreated sewage and a lack of political will have all contributed to the extreme pollution of the River Wahumkhrah, which flows through the city.
At present, a huge pile of garbage has piled up in this river system near Jingkieng Mawlai (Stanley Roy Constructions), which has caused great sorrow and discomfort for the people living along the banks of the river.
Speaking to Highland Post, the Rangbah Shnong of Mawlai Iewrynghep, Herlambok War, said that the garbage that has piled up along the surface of the river in this particular spot has become an eyesore and has created an unbearable stench for all that live there and for those who pass by.
War blamed people living upstream for the pollution.
“It is a big disgrace to see so much garbage mounting up in this portion of the river but we are helpless since all this waste has come from upstream. We hope that the government takes necessary steps to clean this river system and issue a strict warning not to pollute the river,” he said.
Member of the Assembly committee on the environment, Himalaya Shangpliang, bemoaned that, though the issue of the Wahumkhrah has been discussed ad infinitum, no solution to clean the river and keep it clean has been found.
“We keep raising this issue with the government in order to get a long-term proposal and action plan to clean up the whole river and to disallow the dumping of garbage into the Wahumkhrah and Umshyrpi rivers but I fail to understand why the government is not paying attention to this major problem,” the opposition MLA told this reporter.
From these rivers the pollution, once heavy rains come, will be washed down into Umiam Lake, which also bears the scars of massive pollution. Not all of the rubbish is washed away, though, with solid waste pollution also partly to blame for the seasonal flooding that the city witnesses in areas close to the Wahumkhrah, such as can be found in the Polo neighbourhood during the monsoons.
“It is high time that the government puts its head down to do something about these two major rivers that have become the victim of human activities,” Shangpliang said. “There are central schemes that the government of India is giving to clean up river systems and the state government should make efforts to tap these schemes. The state pollution board, municipal authority and all the concerned departments should work together to halt this uncontrolled pollution.”
There are existing rules and regulations but they need to be enforced to halt pollution, he said, adding that all workshops, tea stalls, garages across the city should be given strict warnings not to dump their waste into the river and this should be backed up by inspections by the relevant authorities.
Meanwhile, leader of the Synjuk Ki Nongsynshar Shnong ka Bri U Hynniewtrep (SNSBH), RL Blah, said that the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) had earlier launched an initiative to clean the Wahumkhrah and empowered Dorbar Shnongs through which the river flows but this effort has “disappeared without any result”.
He added that without teamwork between the KHADC, state government, Dorbar Shnongs and experts, there can be no hope for the river’s cleanup.
“It is pointless to keep holding seminars and show blueprints from time to time if there are no action plans and practical approaches to clean these rivers. If the government has the political will to take responsibility to address this issue along with all the concerned stakeholders, only then will this become fruitful,” Blah stated while appealing to the government to make this a priority before the coming of the monsoon.
It, however, cannot solely be a government effort, with environmentalist Bremley B Lyngdoh saying, “We must clean our minds and protect our river systems from human contamination so they can be restored to keep us and all other species that depend on them alive.”