Urban Rivers

Top Ten River Front Development Stories 2022: Destroying Rivers, Livelihoods

(Feature Image: Work on Rs. 700 crore Chambal RFD project in Kota which is supposed to be ready by Dec. 2022 end. Image Source: Free Press Journal)

The Central and various state governments have been pushing big budget River Front Developments (RFD) projects as panacea for all the urban water woes. In reality, these are River destruction projects with the objective of encroaching on river floodplain and even river beds of Urban Rivers. These RFDs have been failing to deliver on proposed claims and resulting in waste of public money apart from causing more damages to urban rivers eco-system and livelihoods of dependent communities. The projects are also multiplying the Urban Flood potential. In reality, India urgently requires an Urban River Policy as a subset of Urban Water Policy to guide how to treat urban water and urban rivers.

This compilation highlights situation of ten such RFD projects in the country which are failing miserably and facing stiff resistance from concerned citizens and dependent people during last one year or so.

1. Varanasi Ganga Canal project in Varanasi scrapped After spending about ₹12 crore on nearly 5.3km long stretch, about 45 m wide and around 7 m deep navigational canal through Ganga riverbed in Kashi for which freshwater turtle sanctuary was shifted, this unviable, unthoughtful project has reportedly been scrapped after it was completely destroyed by monsoon floods in August 2021. So far no one has been held accountable for impacting Ganga morphology, damaging turtle sanctuary and wasting tax payers’ money.  Now as the canal stands destroyed and scrapped, NMCG must immediately restore Turtle Sanctuary. Also despite few new STPs and November 2021 deadline 120 MLD untreated sewage is still polluting Ganga in Varanasi (Kashi). Further the river front development is impacting natural course of river there as NMCG has fundamental flaws in planning, execution. It’s time, NMCG, govt consult river experts before wasting more public money with no results. https://twitter.com/Indian_Rivers/status/1467080330955747330?s=20  Satellite images of March, June, August and December 2021 by Raj Bhagat.  https://twitter.com/rajbhagatt/status/1467382538125467648?s=20 https://indiaspendhindi.com/uttar-pradesh/varanasi-ganga-river-canal-project-closed-791390 (8 Dec. 2021)

Experts had questioned the viability of the project, however the irrigation department and UPPCL were in hurry to complete it by June 15. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/varanasi/irrigation-dept-comes-under-lens-after-newly-created-channel-gets-lost-in-floods/articleshow/86466888.cms  (24 Sept. 2021) https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/varanasi/river-scientist-questions-building-spur-canal-in-ganga-in-varanasi/articleshow/83443916.cms  (12 June 2021)

The canal dug though sand patch went under floodwater and was re-filled with silt and sand in monsoon. https://www.amarujala.com/photo-gallery/uttar-pradesh/varanasi/sand-canal-built-in-ganga-is-submerged-water-in-varanasi?pageId=2  (31 July 2021) https://www.theweek.in/news/india/2021/08/11/ganga-above-danger-mark-in-varanasi-threatens-waterway-project.html (11 Aug 2021) https://hindi.thequint.com/news/states/up-varanasi-11-crore-bypass-channel-project-washed-away-by-ganga#read-more (23 Aug 2021)

For the for implementation of RFD activities in Varanasi, the government had de-notified Turtle Wildlife Sanctuary (TWS), the world’s only protected area dedicated to freshwater turtles. https://thewire.in/environment/in-modis-constituency-a-wildlife-sanctuary-is-quietly-being-erased  (24 Sept. 2021) On the other hand, construction waste in huge amount as result of riverfront development works has been dumped into Ganga river. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/varanasi/river-scientist-questions-building-spur-canal-in-ganga-in-varanasi/articleshow/83443916.cms  (12 June 2021) The untreated sewage is still polluting the Ganga in Varanasi. https://www.patrika.com/varanasi-news/city-sewerage-continues-to-fall-into-ganga-in-varanasi-7252889/  (02 Jan. 2022)

2. Bhagalpur Riverfront construction work stopped Construction work of the Ganga riverfront in Bhagalpur district has been stopped by the forest department for violation of the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA), 1972. The Ganga riverfront development is a part of the Bhagalpur Smart City project. Till last week, Bhagalpur Smart City Limited officials, along with other private agencies, were constructing the riverfront in the area under the Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary (VGDS) in Bhagalpur.

Last week, the construction work near Barari Pul Ghat in Bhagalpur was stopped because it was in violation of the WPA and did not have proper clearance and permission, said a forest department official. For the last eight days, the construction work remained closed due to lack of no objection certificate (NOC) from the forest department as construction of the riverfront was in VGDS, an ecologically sensitive location in river Ganga, they added.

Construction of concrete buildings has been prohibited within 200 metres along the bank of Ganga, Singh said. In case of the riverfront construction in VGDS, it is a matter of serious concern. The NGT has also barred construction of buildings within 200 metres along the bank of Ganga. However, sources in Bhagalpur Smart City Ltd said the forest department decision to stop construction of the riverfront was informed to the concerned department in Delhi for early clearance to restart the work. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/governance/ganga-riverfront-construction-work-stopped-in-bihar-s-bhagalpur-for-violating-wildlife-sanctuary-act-82623  (29 April 2022)

3. Jaipur Rs 1,600cr later, Dravyavati riverfront is squatters’ hub As project remains unattended even after three years of its completion, the encroachments are increasing at an alarming speed inside and on the outer boundary of the river bank. With JDA (Jaipur Development authority) and Tata Projects Ltd locking horns over maintenance charge issue, the condition of Dravyavati riverfront is expected to deteriorate further. While JDA is not willing to take the possession of the project, the firm has expressed helplessness to continue the maintenance for long as the civic body is not releasing outstanding amount for maintenance. An official said, “To resolve the problem, a meeting was held 2 months ago where it was decided that remaining amount of the firm will be released. But nothing has been done so far.”

As the multi-crore project remains unattended even after even three years, encroachments are increasing at an alarming speed on riverfront. ToI

As per the contract, the JDA is now planning to release the operation and maintenance costs once the project is completed and handed over to the user. However, the firm is stressing to take possession of the completed portion of the project. Sources said, “Though JDA is asking to complete the project before releasing payment, work on the 550-metre stretch near Hassanpura cannot be initiated due to court stay. If land is not provided for another 3 months, the company will have to incur maintenance costs.” https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/jaipur/rs-1600cr-later-dravyavati-riverfront-is-squatters-hub/articleshow/88131513.cms  (07 Dec. 2021)

Expressing disappointment over the delay in Dravyavati project, transport minister Pratap Singh Khachariya has asked the JDA to take action against the officers concerned and complete the pending work in stipulated time. Taking a dig at the former BJP government, the minister said they had only renamed the Amananshah Nalla (drainage channel) to Dravyavati River which remains a drainage channel till date. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/jaipur/min-act-against-errant-officers-for-delaying-dravyavati-river-project/articleshow/86494547.cms  (25 Sept. 2021)

Some more info here: Dravyavati RFD is incomplete. 70 crore work left. The deadline has been extended 6 times. The works were to be completed by 10 October 2018. Its a 1470 crore project with 20 crores annual maintenance for 10 years. https://www.sinceindependence.com/india-news/politics-on-dravyavati-river-in-jaipur-khachariyawas-visited-and-counted-the-faults-of-jda  (27 Sept. 2021)

4. Hyderabad River front project shelved The Telangana government has shelved the Musi Rejuvenation and Beautification Project despite spending crores on the much-publicised venture, and annually paying Rs 3.15 crore as salary to employees of Musi Riverfront Development Corp Ltd (MRDCL) for six years. The decision to abandon the project “for the time being” came after MRDCL board of directors met on August 28, 2021. It came in the wake of Rs 2-crore expenditure incurred by the corporation on river development works getting washed away in recent incessant rains. Citing urban flooding occurring every year, authorities said they would go ahead with the riverfront project only after preparing DPR.  https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/current-affairs/140921/government-shelves-musi-riverfront-development-project.html  (15 Sep 2021) Despite forming MRDCL and earmarking Rs 1,665 crore, the nodal agency has neither diverted effluents nor removed encroachments from the banks till date. https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/politics/140221/musi-could-finally-see-some-development.html  (15 Feb. 2021)

River beautification works washed away in floods Whatever little development that Musi Riverfront Project witnessed has faced a setback due to floods following heavy rains last month and release of 23,000 cusecs of water from Himayatsagar and 12,000 cusecs of water from Osmansagar. The velocity of floods in the river caused erosion of about four km of pavements, cycling tracks, landscapes and other infrastructure developed at Nagole at a cost of Rs 9 crore. MRDCL authorities maintained that before taking up the development work at Nagole, they had taken into account the major devastation caused due to flash floods in October 2020. But they are surprised that last month’s floods due to heavy rains still caused quite some damage.

Musi RFD Project began in 2006 but had slackened. After formation of Telangana, the TRS government decided to give the river a facelift at an estimated cost of Rs 740 crore, with 70 per cent of funding coming from National River Conservation Directorate (NRCD). Due to fund crunch, the project gathered dust during the first term of TRS government. In the interim, the project cost escalated to Rs 1,665 crore. However the nodal agency has neither diverted effluents that come into the Musi River nor removed encroachments from its banks till date. https://www.pressreader.com/india/deccan-chronicle/20210822/281646783221807  (22 Aug. 2021)

Plan to build check dams on river to be scrapped The construction of check dams along the existing bridges of Musi river for the retention of water within were planned few metres away from the bridges as per the suggestions of experts with an idea to develop recreational facilities like boating, landscaping, cafeterias, sidewalks and parks with a potential to attract visitors and tourists, in line with the Musi River Development Project by MRDCL. But, the plans don’t look feasible at the existing bridges due to technical reasons.

However, there are possibilities of having a few check dams at the 14 new bridges that have been proposed by the State government through Hyderabad Road Development Corporation Limited (HRDCL). It was learned that the Irrigation Department officials have indicated that there wouldn’t be sufficient flow capacity if the bridges were built along with the check dams. Then, it was decided to build the bridges and check dams separately. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/telangana/2021/nov/20/plan-to-build-check-dams-on-musi-to-be-scrapped-2385872.html  (20 Nov. 2021) It is planning 14 check dams and 15 bridges on the Musi River passing through Hyderabad. https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/current-affairs/100721/14-dams-boating-facilities-to-come-up-across-musi.html  (11 July 2021)

Despite this, it seems the government has not dropped the RFD plan fully and working on DPR to fill Musi river with Godavari water. https://telanganatoday.com/musi-river-rejuvenation-project-set-to-gain-pace-harish-rao  (27 Feb. 2022) The government has approved a residential-cum-commercial complex consisting of 1,650 residential units and a 12-floor commercial building, proposed at a distance of around 100 metres from the Musi river. The project named ‘River Front’ is proposed by EIPL Infra Projects over an area of around 5.1 acres at Manchirevula of Gandipet mandal in Rangareddy district and the expected cost is Rs 527 crore. https://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/hyderabad/2021/jun/25/hyderabad-housing-project-near-musi-river-to-receive-environmental-clearance-2321072.html  (25 June 2021)

5. Ahmedabad Riverfront not a flowing river: HC task force The Gujarat High Court appointed Joint Task Force (JTF) has submitted that the waterbody in PM Narendra Modi’s pet project Sabarmati Riverfront is a stagnant water body, which has been polluted by illegal dumping of industrial effluents through STP waters. The JTF constituted by the Gujarat HC informed the court that the water body in the Sabarmati Riverfront was not having an environmental flow (e-flow) of water.

“The waters at the Sabarmati Riverfront do not have an e-flow of water and scientifically no discharge could be allowed to be dumped into such a water body,” said Rohit Prajapati, a member of the JTF. “The Sabarmati Riverfront waters are in a bad shape as the STP discharges are released into it. These STP have been legally allowed by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) to receive industrial effluents,” said Prajapati. https://www.theweekendleader.com/Headlines/69344/modis-pet-project-sabarmati-riverfront-not-a-flowing-river-gujarat-hc-task-force.html  (24 Sept. 2021)

This photo from the front page of Gujarat Samachar newspaper of Ahmadabad on Nov 25, 2021 depicts the reality of Sabarmati River Front Development: boat service & AC Cruise services have stopped. There is no place for sea planes due to the growth of the water hyacinth. https://twitter.com/Indian_Rivers/status/1464189300702990341?s=20&t=p4BJYq_25S3BK8F8uvHMQw

How Ahmedabad Lost Sabarmati More than a hundred riverfront projects have already been planned in different Indian cities situated on rivers. These projects claim to transform riverbanks into recreational spaces for the public and to ‘beautify’ the urban rivers. The grim reality is, however, that these projects often become a vehicle to displace the communities living on the riverbanks and to destroy the social ecology of the river. Rivers in India are dying but riverfronts do not help revitalise them. Riverfronts merely mask the degradation of rivers and urban environments while capturing the valuable urban space for elite usage.  Sabarmati river, a river that flows through Ahmedabad and where Gandhi had built his Ashram, is now famous for the riverfront that has been built on it. This film revisits the Sabarmati Riverfront Project where it all started. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xoL2La6BW0c   (10 July 2021)

RFD ignores city’s climate, culture French-American architect, educator and urban planner (born 1931) Prof Bernard Kohn critiques the current Sabarmati RFD project: “Obviously, the idea of an edge-to-edge “lake-like” but basically stagnant water body is in complete contradiction with the climate and the cultural habits of the inhabitants of a city of now more than seven million, be it in India with its extreme climate conditions, or for that matter, anywhere else. The original 1960s proposal of large platforms, stepping down, to a small but variable height and width water body, as opposed to the now constructed walls, would have made, had it been adopted, the discarding of refuse, sewage, industrial wastes and other effluents directly into the river totally impossible. We must totally rethink the Ahmedabad Sabarmati river stretch in terms of its place within a project for the entire river basin as an ecological valley, from its source to the sea, and as an agricultural and environmental entity.”  https://www.counterview.net/2021/03/sabarmati-riverfronts-lake-like.html  (22 March 2021)

6. Pune RFD project would increase flood disaster in the city The RFD project would further narrow down the rivers by constructing embankments to create more land by reclaiming the riverbed or the flood plains.

Existing condition of Mula Mutha Rivers (Source- DMP Pune River Rejuvenation Project p.144)

Reduction in width of the river would reduce its cross-sectional area necessary for uninterrupted flow of water. Consequently, whenever water is released from the dam or there are heavy rains, that flow will get less space to flow in the riverbed leading to steep rise in flood levels inundating large areas of the city. https://sandrp.in/2021/08/05/pune-river-front-development-project/  (05 Aug. 2021)  

Protest against RFD project for over 100 days Representatives of NGOs, citizens and environmentalists have started agitation to oppose the scheme and for the last 100 days, citizens have been protesting against this project. The agitators have decided to continue this agitation even after 100 days. “We want to conserve the river ecosystem, we are fighting for the rejuvenation of rivers. We do not demand beautification. Citizens and organizations in the city will come together and fight to save the rivers,” agitators stated in the attached statements. https://www.punekarnews.in/pune-activists-on-protest-against-mula-mutha-river-rejuvenation-project-for-over-100-days/  (11 June 2022)

RFD does not consider ecology, hydrogeology, climate change While concerned citizens, environmentalists, and experts agree that the rivers need to be cleaned, they contend that the DPR takes a piecemeal and unscientific approach to river rejuvenation, and fails to take into account the current science on ecology, climate change and hydrogeology. https://india.mongabay.com/2022/05/punes-proposed-river-rejuvenation-project-does-not-consider-ecology-hydrogeology-and-climate-change-say-experts/  (27 May 2022)

Greens demand scrapping of RFD project Nearly 20 environmental groups and civic activists approached the state environment department, urging it to scrap the Mula Mutha RFD project as it has many “loopholes”. “If implemented, the project is going to cause more harm than good. It will put the lives of citizens in danger. So, the project should be scrapped permanently,” echoed the activists, who have sent a letter to the environment ministry. Despite repeated meetings, the PMC could not give satisfactory replies to queries from experts and environmentalists. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/pune/environmentalists-demand-scrapping-of-river-project/articleshow/90652174.cms  (05 April 2022)

7. Vadodara Citizens object to ‘destructive’ activity for executing RFD project Several concerned citizen of Vadodara have asked concerned authorities to stop immediately “utterly destructive clean-up activities undertaken” on the river passing through Gujarat’s cultural capital in light of the NGT order, dated May 25, 2021. In a letter to the Union environment secretary and his Gujarat government counterpart as also other officials, including the concerned authorities of the Vadodara city, the citizens insist on demarcation, protection of the entire flood plain zone of the river and maintaining minimum environment flow.

Image Source: Counter View

According to them, it is necessary to ensure integrity of the river, especially by taking into account certain “consequential and incidental issues” like sewage treatment, management of waste, preventing encroachment and plantation.” At the same time, they add, the Vishwamitri River Action Plan should also include “removal of unauthorised structures”. https://www.counterview.net/2021/07/citizens-object-to-utterly-destructive.html (17 July 2021)

Decade later, river revival only on paper The 2015-16 budget had proposed Rs 50 crore for the riverfront as well as Rs 20 crore for diverting the river to prevent flooding and increasing the capacity of Ajwa reservoir. The 2016-17 budget had made provisions for the crocodile park. The Vishwamitri river’s banks are yet to see any development and the crocodile park had to be scrapped due to legal issues.

Sources in the VMC said that the delay in the Vishwamitri project has been due to financial constraints as well as environmental issues. Funding for the project has been a major concern. The project has also been included in the list of VMC’s Smart City projects. The VMC is hoping for aid from the state government as well as funds under the National River Conservation Programme (NRCP). While the initial estimate for the project was around Rs 800 crore, there is no clarity about the costs after the proposed changes in the project.  https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/vadodara/decade-later-river-revival-only-on-paper/articleshow/81096090.cms  (19 Feb. 2021)

8. Kota Uproar over old buildings being razed for Chambal river front Developing river front on the sides of Chambal river ghats has now courted controversy. According to activists, roads are being widened in the Walled City of Kota after razing old buildings of historical importance.

State government is in the process of making Kota city a tourist attraction where a ‘Chambal River Front View’ will be developed. Government has claimed that this project worth hundreds of crores will beautify the city and will attract more tourists. This is, however, allegedly being done at the cost of razing down city’s history.

Government is in the process of developing many flyovers, gardens, parks and a six-km Heritage Walkway at the Chambal ghats. There are said to be ‘samadhis’ of Naga sadhus at the ghats along with some idols which activists said will be in danger of getting destroyed given the development work being undertaken. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/jaipur/uproar-over-old-bldgs-being-razed-for-chambal-river-front/articleshow/81621398.cms  (22 March 2021)

‘World’s largest bell’ riverfront project draws flak A temporary unit set up to cast an 84,000kg swinging bell on the banks of Chambal river as part of the riverfront project has drawn flak from environmentalists, residents and politicians. Environmentalists allege that the casting unit, which falls under the red category of the Pollution Control Board, has been set up without taking the board’s consent. Moreover, the unit has been established in the ESZ of the National Chambal Sanctuary. It has also not taken the mandatory permission from the NBWL.

As per estimates, 225 trucks of green sand, five trucks of sodium silicate, 12 trucks of carbon dioxide, three trucks of LPG and 20,000 litres of diesel are likely to be used to cast the bell. ToI

Rashtriya Jal Biradari state vice-president Brijesh Vijayvargiya said the drains from the unit were already dumping untreated toxic waste into the river. The newly planned unit for pouring metal into the mould would lead to further pollution, he added. “A foundry and boilers will be set up, violating the norms. Moreover, heavy metal waste will be discharged into the river which will not only pollute Chambal but also disturb the ecosystem. Instead of treating the polluted river, the government is squandering money in the name of beautification,” he said. As per estimates, 225 trucks of green sand, five trucks of sodium silicate, 12 trucks of carbon dioxide, three trucks of LPG and 20,000 litres of diesel are likely to be used to cast the bell. The estimated cost of the bell is Rs 15–18 crore. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/jaipur/worlds-largest-bell-riverfront-project-on-chambal-draws-flak-from-public/articleshow/90241788.cms  (16 March 2022)

The riverfront project would cost Rs 700 crore. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/jaipur/700-cr-chambal-riverfront-in-kota-likely-to-be-ready-by-march-dhariwal/articleshow/89081863.cms  (24 Jan. 2022); https://www.freepressjournal.in/education/fpj-ed-chambal-riverfront-project-at-rajasthans-kota-likely-to-be-ready-by-2022-end (21 Jan. 2022) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=An4E2nsGtME (31 Oct. 2020)

9. Bilaspur Riverfront: ‘Devaluing’ water, environment The politicisation of the riverfront development projects are very much part of the India’s water agenda now. How are the policy makers making such promises and how are the planners/architects endorsing as well as ensuring such promises without much established facts? It is more about the perception of valuing water, as the perception is sold in the political arena and bought by the urban populace?

The rush to riverfront projects is more in the last decade after the completion and public/ political appreciation of the Sabarmati RFD in Ahmedabad which is kind of a model project for the country. There lies a warning for other riverfront development projects in considering Sabarmati Riverfront as a model development without judiciously learning and adapting from its social-ecological and institutional impacts. A mere copy-paste of the concretisation model of the Sabarmati is likely to end up with similar impacts as that of in Ahmedabad city and the villages of the upstream and downstream of the river. https://www.counterview.net/2021/04/chhattisgarhs-apra-riverfront-imitates.html (2 Apr 2021)

10. Jammu Riverfront project facing delay It was approved in the 74th meeting of the Board of Directors of Jammu Development Authority (JDA) held in June 2015. The MoU for management consultancy for technical assistance was signed between JDA and Sabarmati River Front Development Corporation Limited (SRFDCL) on April 14, 2016. The feasibility report for a stretch of 3.5 kilometres between 4th Bridge and Gujjar Nagar Bridge amounting to Rs 396.52 crore as received from the consultants SRFDCL was submitted to the Secretary, Union Ministry of Water Resources and as advised by the Ministry the DPR was bifurcated by the consultants into two components.

Image source: The Dispatch

Thereafter, in view of the development of lake through artificial ponding by virtue of construction of barrages a decision was taken in the 79th Board of Directors meeting of JDA held on November 17, 2017 to kick start the project and develop River Tawi front in the stretch of 1.5 kms downstream of Bikram Chowk Bridge up to 4th Tawi Bridge at Bhagwati Nagar in the first instance as pilot project at a cost of Rs 141 crore, sources informed.

Accordingly, tenders were floated for pilot project but in view of exorbitant/grossly in-genuine rates quoted by the bidders it was unanimously decided to seek the opinion of consultants with regard to analysis of rates. Thereafter, fresh tenders were issued but this exercise could not reach logical conclusion in view of the rates quoted by the bidders, sources further informed. Thereafter, fresh tenders were issued twice and in response to fourth call, three bids were received on December 20, 2018 and M/s Mehul Geo Projects with the quoted price of Rs 81.40 crore against the tendered cost of Rs 64.09 crore, which is 27% above, was the lowest bidder. https://www.thedispatch.in/project-to-develop-river-tawi-on-sabarmati-river-front-facing-delay/  (July 2021)

The Chief Secretary directed that the period of execution be reduced from 18 to 12 months. Regarding the work on Tawi Barrage at Bhagwati Nagar bridge, which is an integral part of the RFD project for creating a lake in the area, the Chief Secretary directed the Chief Engineer Irrigation & Flood Control to ensure its completion before the onset of monsoon 2022. https://www.greaterkashmir.com/kashmir/tawi-river-front-development-project-to-be-completed-by-december-2022  (22 Sept. 2021)

Similarly, the work on the Rs 186.74-crore Devika rejuvenation project under the NRCP started in March 2019 and scheduled to be completed in two years has been delayed. After missing March 2021 deadline, official set Dec. 2021 target for completion of the project.. https://www.outlookindia.com/newsscroll/union-minister-reviews-work-on-devika-river-rejuvenation-project-in-jks-udhampur/2020441 (30 Jan. 2021)

Some Relevant Reports

Madurai Plea in Madurai Bench to prevent river exploitation The Vaigai Nathi Makkal Iyakkam has filed a PIL before the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court seeking a direction to the State to take appropriate steps to prevent the exploitation of the river Vaigai. A Division Bench of Justices T. Raja and D. Bharatha Chakravarthy directed the State to file a status report on the petition.

The petitioner complained that construction debris and waste generated while laying roads as part of the Smart City Project were being dumped into the river Vaigai. He pointed out that the debris of the old Kuruvikaran Salai bridge was dumped into the river. The construction project under the Smart City Project was taken up for the beautification of the banks of the river Vaigai. However, the construction debris was dumped along the stretch, he said.

Image source: The Hindu

Further, he sought a direction to the authorities to take steps to operate the STP set up along the Panthalkudi channel and ensure the sewage water is recycled. Also, the mixing of sewage water into the river should be prevented. He said the Vaigai was the main source of water for Madurai and other nearby districts. However, the quality of water in the river was deteriorating and getting polluted. The construction of check dams in the river by excavating sand will affect the groundwater level, he said and also complained about the extraction of sand from the river. Many trees uprooted along the stretch were not replanted, Mr. Nagarajan said. The case was adjourned for further hearing. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Madurai/madurai/article65389005.ece  (06 May 2022)

Delhi Yamuna RFD: A culmination of the struggle between ‘planned’ and ‘unplanned’ Looking at the history of evictions across the floodplains in the Yamuna and the usurping of commons for commercial activity to develop a space that is only for the ‘elite’ as was done in the case of Sabarmati, it becomes necessary to question the intent behind such riverfront projects. Further, the claims of constructing “public” spaces that are controlled and monitored become questionable when the floodplains have always been open to the public and have been home to indigenous communities and practices that help preserve biodiversity. https://prcindia.in/publications/reports/yamuna-riverfront-development-project-a-culmination-of-the-struggle-between-planned-and-unplanned/  (20 June 2022)

Simply making provision for urban farming without acknowledging and integrating existing farmers and fisherfolk into the overall vision for riverfront development creates an imminent risk of gentrification.

A real “river-people connect” will only be possible if the people who actually know the Yamuna, know it deeply as one only knows home, are appreciated as its natural guardians and incentivised to maintain it as a social, cultural, and economic asset. The Delhi Development Authority must not let go of this opportunity to create a truly inclusive, participatory Plan which creates a lasting impetus towards bringing Delhi closer to the Yamuna. https://scroll.in/article/1005714/delhi-master-plan-2041-what-will-it-take-to-create-a-real-connect-between-yamuna-and-city-dwellers  (21 Sept. 2021)

NMCG Guidance Note for Urban Riverfront Planning & Development “Guidance Note for Environmentally Sensitive, Climate Adaptive and Socially Inclusive Urban Riverfront Planning and Development” was launched by NMCG at ‘Connect Karo’ organised by World Resources Institute (WRI), India. Explaining how this publication will be useful in making river-sensitive urban designs, Shri Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, Director General, NMCG said, “This guideline will help city planners across the Ganga River Basin, and the country at large, understand how to integrate urban river fronts into a Master Plan.” He said, “Riverfronts help in re-connecting people to river and makes their visit to river pleasant.” He added that riverfronts are essential in meeting the increasing demand for public spaces in urban areas. https://pib.gov.in/PressReleseDetailm.aspx?PRID=1755828  (17 Sept. 2021)

We sincerely hope this is an advertisement run by The Week and nothing else. It talks as if all Ganga’s problems are over by one program which has been heavily criticized already. https://www.theweek.in/news/india/2021/09/10/Mission-Possible-Ganga-Rejuvenation.html  (10 Sept. 2021)

Cities along rivers urged to include conservation plans The recommendations are currently for towns that are on the main stem of the river Ganga. There are, as per the estimate of the policy document, 97 of them encompassing 5 States — Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal.

Cities with an ongoing Master Plan tenure, ought to be conducting an “immediate analysis” of the extent to which these the river guidelines could have been adopted and this “will help” in incorporating the appropriate revisions when the current Plan is reviewed. State, town and country planning organisations should identify the river cities which need to adopt these guidelines. The Planning and Development Authorities of these cities should initiate the process of preparing a river-centric Master Plan using this guidance note as a reference, the document notes. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/cities-along-rivers-urged-to-include-conservation-plans/article35149029.ece  (05 July 2021)

Opinion Indian cities need river-sensitive master plans By Rajiv Ranjan Mishra Victor R Shinde  NMCG-NIUA developed a strategic framework (Urban River Management Plan) that requires cities to take actions on a common 10-point agenda. The URMP framework was launched last year, and Kanpur will be the first city to adopt this framework for making a city-specific URMP.

… while a master plan is an ideal platform for integrating the river with the city’s development landscape, there are hardly any available master plans that have taken a sustainable approach. To address this, NMCG-NIUA developed a document (Making River-Sensitive Master Plans).

The document, which aims to help city planners integrate river thinking into master plans, provides seven avenues for planners to tackle different river-related issues in a city. Some of these are conventional challenges related to land use assignment, development control regulations, and norms and standards for activities allowed in flood-plains. https://www.hindustantimes.com/opinion/indian-cities-need-river-sensitive-master-plans-101624021105180.html  (18 June 2021)

Besides these, there have been reports on on CBI raids regarding Gomati RFD in Lucknow, undergoing and planned RFD projects on Ganga in Patna, Saraswati in Kurushetra, Yamuna in Etawah, Godavari in Nashik, Manair in Karimnagar, Jhelum in Srinagar, Badi river in Ajmer, and Moran in Dungarpur in past one year.  

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

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