Plastic waste is choking India. Rivers and canals in Assam and across the country can be seen filled with masses of rubbish, including plastic bottles, bags and other plastic items. According to a recent assessment by the Central Pollution Control Board, there are 44 polluted river stretches in Assam.
The Bharalu, a small tributary of the Brahmaputra on its southern bank, which flows through the heart of Guwahati, is one of the most polluted rivers in the state. The river is being buried — or drowning — in plastic garbage. The heaps of plastic waste is so thick at some places that it’s blocking the flow of water through the city.
The condition has further worsened after the district administration blocked the flow of water from the Bharalu into the Brahmaputra due to ongoing Brahmaputra Pushkar & Sanskritik Mahotsav 2019.
The locals alleged that due to the blockade, the water level with the plastic waste of the river is rapidly increasing. The Anil Nagar residents and commuters passing by the river complained of rancid smell and fear diseases.
“The way the water level and waste is increasing, the river will throw back all the garbage that was disposed of in it in the next two days,” said a local.
The river carries a humongous portion of city’s waste including sewage. The river also serves as the natural drainage for stormwater runoff. The Bharalu originates in the Meghalaya foothills and flows through the Guwahati before draining into the south bank of the Brahmaputra.
After flowing a few kilometres from its origin in the Khasi Hills, the Bharalu bifurcates into two rivulets: the Basistha River, which flows towards Deepor Beel, and the Bahini River, which in its downstream stretch is called the Bharalu while flowing through Guwahati and eventually draining into the Brahmaputra at Bharalumukh.
The Bharalu catchment area in Guwahati has undergone rapid urbanization in recent years, resulting in unabated encroachment and discharge or dumping of solid and liquid wastes, thereby severely degrading the river system.