Delhi water supply from Yamuna River through Munak canal has been severely impacted by Jat quota stir as the violent mob has damaged the Munak canal. As a result thousands of Delhiites are facing great difficulty in securing potable water. By the time the canal based water supply is restored which may take about a month, the discharged of industrial effluents in Yamuna upstream by Haryana has forced shutting down of two water treatment plants further jeopardizing the already wrenched out water supply in Delhi.
Delhi water supply has become so vulnerable to causalities that experts have been rightly suggesting development and conservation of Delhi’s own water resources in terms of wetland protection, rain water harvesting etc. to deal with such crisis.
Apart from these two reasons there is a third bigger and still not known reason ignoring which may cause severest of water crisis in national capital and that is rampant mining of riverbed material around Hathini Kund Barrage (HKB). SANDRP in this blog try to highlight how the uncontrolled mining around HKB is endangering the barrage structure which in turn will surely lead to suspense of Delhi water supply for many months.
HKB located in Yamuna Nagar, Haryana (HR) on River Yamuna is primary source of Delhi’s potable water. The barrage also serves as State boundary between HR and Uttar Pradesh (UP) with River Yamuna continue separating the two States for next 200 KM before reaching the capital city.
The adjoining districts to HKB namely Yamuna Nagar in HR and Saharanpur in UP are still infested with unauthorized removal of minerals despite National Green Tribunal (NGT) ban on such mining. Local people have been reporting of non-stop riverbed material (sand and stone) excavation in the region which is further confirmed by a news reports (e.g. The Times of India, 10 of Feb. 2016). According to the news report a local politician has formed 111 fake companies and carries mining illegally worth Rs 6-7 crores on a daily basis. Around 50 villages have been reported to be adversely affected by widespread mining and stone crushing activity in the area.
In previous decade, Yamuna Nagar district had turned into a massive stone crusher zone. Miners have dug deep large chunk of farmlands adjoining to River Yamuna in the district. The huge abandoned mine pits now filled with ground water are still visible there (See Google Images) without any post mining restoration. Local ecology and ground water table was hit severely by unsustainable quarrying before Supreme Court on India in Feb. 2012 put a ban on mining in country without environment clearances. Nevertheless local people still find no let up in mining activities and report that operators were taking advantage of the fact that the river area was being shared by two districts belonging to different states which was difficult to demarcate due to annual flood.
Taking cognizance of the issue the NGT on 18 Feb.2016 has imposed ban on illegal sand mining and extraction of minor minerals from Yamuna River in Yamuna Nagar and Saharanpur districts for next 45 days. On Saharanpur side the green court has put a fine of 50 crore on five lease holders for carrying out excessive unauthorised mining resulting in damage and degradation of riverbed whereas in Yamuna Nagar 69 stone crusher operators have in affidavit accepted not to be in operation during the ban period. Constituting a high powered committee under Union Environment Ministry the tribunal has asked d both State Govt (HR & UP) to submit a comprehensive mining plan to it. The court has also made it clear that violators of the ban would be liable to pay Rs 5 lakhs as environmental compensation.
The decision was taken on a plea filed by activists Gurpreet Singh Bagga and Jai Singh who had moved the NGT against rampant illegal mining of minor minerals in Saharanpur and Yamuna riverbed. However it seems that neither petitioner nor the NGT have showed concerns towards the safety of HKB in the case. Secondly, ban on sand mining in past by respective Courts have also proved ineffective as States of HR & UP have failed to implement it in right spirit and things may fall back to square after 45 days period.
Indiscriminate Yamuna riverbed quarrying from Saharanpur side also reportedly had led to collapse of famous Tajewala barrage during 2010 flood. The British era barrage was located about 5 km downstream HKB, as can be seen in the google image. It was seen as a heritage site even after becoming non-functioning in 2000 when its function of diverting water to Western and Eastern Yamuna canals were taken over by HKB. Now only ruin of the celebrated structure is standing, also as testimony to the indiscriminate and destructive mining (See Google Images).
As obvious from above report unauthorised stone and sand extraction from Yamuna riverbed is going on in Saharanpur district. The following Google images precisely post 2010 also shows large scale riverbed mining activities happening barely 200 meters downstream HKB which may lead to weakening of the foundation of the HKB. Such is the gravity of the issue that many locals have started fearing for HKB safety and guessing that the barrage too is destined to meet Tajewala like fate if mining goes on unabated.
Under these circumstances the collapse of HKB could happen in the event of big floods in future which periodically happen in Yamuna. In case the barrage is damaged, not only there will be massive destruction in the immediate downstream, here would be severe water crisis in Delhi as the capital procures large part of its total water demand from the barrage via Western Yamuna Canal. In addition, the areas of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh served by the Western and Eastern Yamuna canals respectively will also be badly hit.
It is urgent and imperative for the HR, UP, Delhi State Governments as well Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Union Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Central Water Commission and Upper Yamuna River Board to take urgent and immediate cognizance of the issue and check unauthorized riverbed mining in the vicinity of HKB. The sooner this is done, the better.
Bhim Singh Rawat (firstname.lastname@example.org) SANDRP