Ganga

East Nayaar River: The Scenic Stream of Ganga in Trouble

The East and West Nayaar rivers[i] of Uttrakhand are small natural streams feeding the National River. They may meet the fate of Ganga and Yamuna, if the current trend damaging them remain unchecked. This pictorial report highlights the plight and beauty of East Nayaar river.  The River is also spelt as NAYAR by a number of documents. 

Degradation of Ganga river and its big tributaries gets adequate attention amongst concerned, while such small natural streams feeding the National River, largely remains absent in the mind and memory of stakeholders.

These perennial streams are making the River Ganga living and flowing in founding basin area. They seem healthy and living, however the problems of dumping of solid and liquid waste, construction debris, road cutting, water abstraction and hydro projects are rapidly catching up with the smaller streams.

The WII 2012 report on Ganga Basin Hydropower projects said about Nayar River: “Among all tributaries in the basin, the Nayar River was reported with highest number of 57 fish species. The Nayar River is the spring/rain fed tributary of the main Ganges adjoining the Alaknanda basin. Many cold water fishes including mahseer and snow trouts were observed breeding in this river at least twice in a year especially between March and August. Heterogeneity in the habitats, gradual sloping throughout the river, excellent growth of algae on the substratum provide better food sources for fish and other microbes in the river, eutrophic condition, etc make this river is more conducive for fishes to breed in the region. Therefore, this river has been identified as the critical fish habitat in these basins… The stretch of Ganga from Devprayag to Rishikesh falls in the lower Himalayan range. A major spring fed perennial river Nayar joins Ganga near Byasi and several small streams also drain between this basin. This area encompasses the subtropical sal and mixed forests, open grassy slopes and scrub, and patches of riverine forests along the river. This sector of river has many deep pools and rapids, which are most preferable habitat for large size fishes like mahseers and barbs. This stretch of the Ganga is heavily used for adventure activities such as river rafting, camping, rock climbing and also for religious/spiritual purposes… In the entire Ganges, this is the only sector with viable population of golden mahseer T. putitora. This population moves along the Nayar river during monsoon for breeding. Based on the present survey, the Nayar river is recognised as one of the critical habitat for mahseer and its associated species… It is proposed that (a) Nayar River and the Ganges stretch between Devprayag and Rishikesh, … may be declared as Fish Conservation Reserve as these stretches are comparatively less disturbed and have critically important habitats for long term survival of Himalayan fishes basin.”

nyar rivers
Google Earth Image of East and West Nayaar Rivers 

In fact, the Report (submitted to MoEF in May 2013) of the Inter Ministerial Group on Upper Ganga Hydropower projects and Ganga Basin in general, headed by Shri B K Chaturvedi  has specifically recommended[ii]: “ The River Ganga has over a period of years suffered environmental degradation due to various factors. It will be important to maintain pristine river in some river segments of Alaknanda and Bhagirathi. It accordingly recommends that six rivers, including Nayar, Bal Ganga, Rishi Ganga, Assi Ganga, Dhauli Ganga (upper reaches), Birahi Ganga and Bhyunder Ganga, should be kept in pristine form and developments along with measures for environment up gradation should be taken up.”

About Nayaar Rivers

The twin streams originate from Dudhatoli[iii] Reserve Forest range of Pouri Garhwal. Fed by 14 streams, the East Nayaar flows a distance of about 94 km and the West Nayaar about 91 km. They merge together, at Satupli[iv] town in Pouri district forming the Nayaar river. Winding its way through lower Himalaya Mountains for about 100 km further, the Nayaar river finally joins the Ganga river at Vyas Ghat in Rishikesh.

Both the streams form the second largest non-glacial and perennial rivers system in Uttarakhand after the Ramganga[v] rivers. Interestingly the Ramganga streams also rise from the same Dudhatoli Forest Range.  

enr 7

The word Nayaar is presumably derived from Narad Ganga. It is the lifeline for people living in Nayaar valley, who largely rely on this river for potable and irrigation water. Apart from this the river has great aesthetic, recreational value. The perennially flowing stream has been used as a metaphor for human life and how it inspires us to keep going, unstoppable as described in the famous Garhwali song – “Rukadi Chhey Na Sukhadi Chhey, Nayaar Jani Bagdi Chhey” – which means “You keep going like Nayaar without, stopping or drying.”

About Dudhatoli Forest

Dudhatoli (30°03′56″N 79°11′13″E), is among last remaining pristine forest patch in Uttrakhand. The Dudhatoli mountain range is covered by thick alpine forest sprawling between Thailisain block in Pouri and Gairsain in Chamoli district. Dudhatoli Danda which is core area of the mountain, has an average elevation of about 3000 metres. The mountain range is also comprised of some denuded hilltops, and picturesque Bugyal (pasture land).

Dudhatoli word means ‘cradle of milk’. Pastoralists from hundreds of nearby villages have been seasonally visiting the forest with their livestock for past hundreds of years. It is believed that from the medicinal herbs of Dudhatoli, Rishi Chyavan invented Chyavanprash. For its unmatched and untouched beauty, Dudhatoli is also famous as Pamir (heaven) of Uttarakhand.

The mountain range and surrounding foothills form an intricate network of riparian zones and are source of 5 non-glacial, perennial rivers including Ramganga West, Nayaar East, Nayaar West and Ataganga. Besides innumerable springs and streams feeding these rivers also originate from the forest area. 

Thailisain: Growing But Not Managing Solid and Liquid Waste

For about initial 10 km, the East Nayaar entirely flows in Dudhatoli Reserve Forest. Marod is the first village situated along the river course inside the reserve forest. About 15 km downstream Thailisain[vi] is first town sitting on the right bank of the river.

The block with estimated population of 2900 as per 2011 census, taps a natural stream for drinking water. The stream is part of Nayaar river basin. The small town discharges its waste water in to the same local stream from which it gets drinking water.

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There is no waste management facility and solid waste is dumped in open forest land round the corner, where it is either burnt or get washed in the stream feeding East Nayaar River.

The forest department has been warning the local administration against the practice which has so far started no remedial measures.

New Bridge, Road Construction Dumping Debris in Tributary Streams

Majhgaun village is located about 9 km downstream of Thailisain block. Fed by couple of natural streams, East Nayaar runs wider. The construction of a new bridge on National Highway (NH) 121 at Majhgaun has been dumping of muck into Gangau stream, completely chocking it. Part of the debris are also being thrown into East Nayaar River.

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There are many such locations upto Baijro, where road construction debris are being dumped into either East Nayaar or into feeding streams without any precautionary measures. At places the wider riverbed area with fertile land earlier under cultivation, are being grabbed and developed for various other purposes.

Baijro Treats East Nayaar As Waste Dumping Yard

After a meander, the river channel becomes wider from 30 to 70 metres at Baijro, a growing town located on the east bank of East Nayaar river. It also serves as rural market hub and connects Garhwal and Kumao divisions with road networks.

In recent past, several human habitations and government infrastructure have been settling on gentle slope by the river which is under Kund Gram Panchyat. The river also forms a small island, where an interesting Dariya Devta (River God) temple has been built.

The town sources its water from East Nayaar river. It generates solid waste mainly of plastic in significant amount which is dumped into river from four locations. Same is the case with sewage which ultimately finds its way into the river. Surprisingly the local authority have not noticed the problem so far let alone initiating efforts to address it.

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The General Manager of Jal Sansthan Pouri, D K Singh said that he had no information regarding this and would take actions if pictorial evidence is provided by the author. After getting information about the issue, Rampal Singh Rawat, Tehsildar, Thalisain also planned a visit of the area to look into the matter.

“We are in the process of acquiring 16 Nali land for waste collection and segregation of waste, But Kund is small village and there is no local authority to manage the issue”, says Rampal Singh Rawat.

Story No Different In Satpuli

Satpuli is the Nagar Panchayat located on the left bank of East Nayaar River some 80 km downstream Baijro along NH 119.  About 2 km downstream, the East and West Nayaar joins together forming Nayaar river full of aquatic life including fish, crabs, snakes etc.

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Satpuli literally translates to Seven Bridges. As per local seven bridges are to be crossed to reach the place. There was a devastating flood in East Nayaar in 1951 killing several people there. A memorial in the memory of flood victim has been created near the town.

Water supply to Satpuli town is sourced from East Nayaar and in return solid and liquid waste is thrown back into the river. The river becomes wider and a large chunk of riverbed is being grabbed on right bank opposite Satpuli barely 100 meters downstream the bridge. Mining of riverbed gravel and sand is also common in this stretch of the river.

Sadly though East Nayaar river is seen as huge tourism potential, with activities like river rafting and angling. But the tourism department has not been able to ensure safe waste disposal facility at these locations along the river.

 “Tourists flock to other places like Lansdowne, Khirsu etc in the district. Dumping of waste in Nayaar is indeed an issue, however the civic agencies like Nagar Panchayat in towns and Jila Panchayat in rural areas are responsible for waste management and not the tourism department, says K S Negi the District Tourism Officer, Pouri.  

Hydro Power Projects on East Nayaar River

There are 6 small hydropower projects[vii] (SHP) on Nayaar river (1 on main Nayar, 3 on East Nayaar and 2 on West Nayaar.  

List of SHP on Nayaar River

SN Name of SHP Capacity River Status
1 Nayaar Project 17 Mw Nayaar (main stem) Proposed
2 Santudhar I 2 Mw West Nayaar Proposed
3 Santudhar II 2 Mw West Nayaar Proposed
4 Byaligaon 2.25 Mw East Nayaar Proposed
5 Dunao 1.5 Mw East Nayaar Operational
6 Gauni Chheeda 0.5 Mw East Nayaar Under Construction

The 0.5 Mw Gunicheeda SHP is under construction at Gairsari some 10 km upstream of Baijro. Gunicheeda is scenic waterfall. The construction of diversion channel at tail end is going on while at head the initial part of the channel is silted up and damaged at many places.

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Some 12 km downstream Baijro there is place named Donav at Bironkhal. Donav means confluence of two rivers. East Nayaar is joined by a tributary hear. At this site 1.5 MW Donav SHEP has come up. It was inaugurated by Chief Minister in 2017.  The location of 2.25 Mw Bayaligaon SHEP is not known.

As per the WII 2012 report on cumulative impact assessment of hydropower projects, the proposed Kotli Bhel II project will submerge a part of this river and affect it adversely.

Summing Up

The Nayaar river has remained perennial stream so far. However the dumping of solid and liquid waste in the river has become a common way of waste disposal in growing towns and villages along the river which if not managed properly will destroy the river ecosystem and tourism potential soon.

The road construction and cutting of hills is increasing soil erosion in catchment and silt load in the East Nayaar. Dumping of construction debris into tributary streams and East Nayaar is also rampant. The practice is filling up deep pools in the river which provide habitat to Mahseer fish[viii] is destructive for the ecosystem.

The SHPs are pushed ahead without prior environment (river) impact assessment especially on Mahseer fish species which is unscientific and Environmental Clearances should be made mandatory of SHPs also.

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The Nayaar river feeds[ix] the National River Ganga. The growing human interventions are taking its toll on the East Nayaar river system. If these problems are not addressed at this stage, in near future they may grow beyond remedies affecting people, river and Ganga.

Composed by Bhim Singh Rawat, SANDRP (bhim.sandrp@gmail.com)

END NOTES:

[i] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nayaar_River

[ii] https://sandrp.in/2013/06/03/eacs-norms-for-eflows-need-to-change-submission-from-civil-society/

[iii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dudhatoli

[iv] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satpuli

[v] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramganga

[vi] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thalisain

[vii] https://sandrp.in/2013/07/10/uttarakhand-existing-under-construction-and-proposed-hydropower-projects-how-do-they-add-to-the-disaster-potential-in-uttarakhand/

[viii] https://sandrp.in/2015/01/25/headwater-extinctions-by-emmanuel-theophilus-some-concerns/

[ix] https://sandrp.in/2017/04/05/uttarakhand-rivers-profile/

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