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The Meghalaya high court has asked the state government to come up with long-term and short-term measures to arrest the degradation of the water bodies and rejuvenate them.

Hearing a PIL on April 7, a bench headed by chief justice Sanjib Banerjee has asserted that several of the rivers, particularly those passing through Shillong or the larger towns like Nongstoin, require to be rejuvenated.

“The natural system of flow should be restored upon scientific advice being obtained in such regard. While citizens along the rivers must have access to the water, there should be awareness campaigns to indicate the nature of permissible use and what other activities would not be permitted,” the Meghalaya high court said.

“In particular, the measures should be geared to preserve, protect and rejuvenate plants and animals that live or thrive in water. Again, both long-term and short-term measures have to be devised and sincerely implemented,” it added.

The court further directed the state to issue appropriate guidelines in such regard, first to arrest the further degradation of the water bodies, then to preserve the same and ultimately to rejuvenate or revive them.

Endorsing the suggestion of the Amicus Curiae, the Meghalaya high court said at major tourist spots, boards should be put up to indicate the “do’s” and “don’ts”, with local personnel engaged to ensure adherence thereto and helplines indicated for any complaints.

It is best that the locals be involved in the process as that would result in a personal touch and the affinity to protect and preserve the immediate environment, it said while asking the Meghalaya government to consider some form of honorarium or reward for the personnel engaged for such purpose.

In the light of the increasing footfall of tourists in Meghalaya, the court asked the state to indicate the general “dos” and “don’ts”, levels or distances beyond which tourists may not be permitted should be earmarked, a safe distance be maintained between the edge of the water-bodies and vehicular traffic, including parking; and the restriction of certain material like plastics and tetra packs should be indicated.

Meanwhile, the court has also directed the state government to take appropriate steps to close the landfill site at Marten.

“In the meantime, appropriate steps should be taken to close the landfill site at Marten, if it has reached the saturation point, upon any alternative site being identified for immediate use,” it said.

The next hearing will be held on June 3.

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