Uttarakhand: Burying Ramganga Streams under Road Muck

This pictorial report highlights how pristine streams in Uttarakhand have been facing destruction by irresponsible dumping of road construction debris and muck in rural areas.

Google Earth image showing the Syunsal village. The gaderas, road alignment, and muck dumped in streams is marked with blue, black and red color.

The case in point is Syunsal village of Thailisain block in Pauri district which falls in Ramganga basin. Presently a 7 km long road by Public Works Department (PWD) Baijro division is under construction in the village.  

Muck and debris thrown in Patyuda gadera.

While all the villagers are quite delighted to see their long pending demand becoming a reality, the mismanagement of road debris has become potential disaster threat as being increasingly witnessed in many cases across the state.

The road debris dumped downhill burying village main pathways. (17 Feb. 2022)

So far almost 50 percent double cutting of 7 meter wide road in first phase has been done and the enormous amount of resultant debris is being simply thrown down the slope affecting forest area, common pasture land, villager path ways and agricultural fields, besides the streams and rivers.

Hill slope covered with road muck damaging native trees and vegetation in civil forest areas.

While during survey villagers were informed about creation of 3 to 4 muck dump yards in every kilometer by PWD officials, on ground there is not a single dump yard created.

Khadi da gadera’s flowing path blocked, course filled with road muck and debris.

Nearly half a dozen perennial streams including Patyuda, Khadi Da, Bhutu, Mailya, Lim Da and seasonal drains are worst affected as muck and debris have chocked their significant portion muddying sparkling water for hundreds of meters downstream stressing aquatic life. These are first order streams with sharp gradient and also known as gaderas forming of Binnu river a sub-tributary of Ramganga.

JCBs dumping muck, debris along hill slope and into Lim Da gadera.

Dozens of villages including Deghat town of Almora depend on these streams for potable and irrigational needs. These streams are also integral part of cultural, recreational, fishing activities apart from catering to domestic as well as wild animals.

Road muck being dumped into the course of Mailya gadera

Apart from downstream course, at crossing points the streams have been disfigured. The flowing path is buried under debris which can be easily be prevented by placing hume pipes or creating causeway temporarily to let them flow smoothly. 

As flowing path of Khadi Da gadera is block by road debris it invaded under construction road following a moderate rain spell.

During January 7-8, 2022 rainfall, Khadi Da gadera witnessed low flooding and invaded the under construction part of road as its channel was totally blocked by muck and debris.

Muck and uprooted trees in Lim Da gadera course.

As the road climbs up crisscrossing the hill, these streams have face the same treatment twice even thrice.  Resultantly over hundred meters stretches of Lim Da, Bhutu and Khadi Da gaderas have completely disappeared.

Course of Bhutu gadera filled with road muck, debris.

The banks of Bhutu gadera once covered under riparian flora with vegetation along slopes and inaccessible to humans now look beyond recognition resembling a war zone or barren landscape.

Revenue officials inspecting muck disposal status on Jan. 30, 2022.

When the administration was informed about the alarming situation, the revenue officer Sandeep Kumar on January 30, 2022 inspected the road construction and found glaring negligence in safe muck disposal by the road developer.

Road muck, debris thrown on hill slope reaching upper part of Khadi da gadera.

He even orally instructed the machines operator to clean off the muck from Lim Da and Khadi Da gaderas within three days. The Revenue Department also wrote a letter to Vivek Semwal, Executive Engineer, PWD Baijro for required action.  

Middle portion of Bhutu gadera disappeared under road rubble.

The supervisor, Junior Engineer of PWD were repeatedly informed about the ongoing damages and potential threats but in vain. While officials say the developer is not allowed to dump road debris in streams, the ground reality tells a different story.

Interestingly, a May 2017 guidelines of PWD also prescribes reuse and safe disposal of road muck in dumping yard but this seems just limited on paper.

September 2021 cloud burst deluge impact still visible along Tuday gadera.

Syunsal village has faced a ‘cloud burst’ incident in early morning hours of Sep 7, 2021 which caused significant damages to crops, farmlands, trees, pathways, foot bridge along the gadera.

The impact of the subsequent flood is even visible through Google Earth imagery and the scar of the deluge is still visible from miles distance in a clear reminder to proportion of destruction if the drainage channels are chocked with malbas and debris.  

Village women with important message standing along Bhutu gadera.

The pre-monsoon season when many such events are witnessed in the state is just round the corner. In case of intense rain or cloud burst over catchment of these streams, the muck and debris are bound to amplify flash flood destruction. Hence the grim situation requires urgent intervention by the PWD and district administration.

Bhim Singh Rawat (bhim.sandrp@gmail.com)

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