This multi-media report by Siddharth Agarwal based on a walk along the majestic Ken River in central India, now part of a contentious river-linking project, shows how essential it is to the communities living around it.
The idea of walking along a river has many key reasons, but the most important of them is to interact, discuss with and document the life of the actual stakeholders of this natural system. Traversing flood plains and riverbanks on foot takes us right where the story is, not in a far removed space, where even a few kilometres away from it can be a major shift. Location plays a wonderful role in rejigging memory and helps people imagine past situations. The discussions on the scale of the importance of a river suddenly have a realism and depth.
Two environmentalists take a walk along a river and find that they should have brought along the policymakers, planners, engineers and politicians claiming to help it.
When heading out on an adventure, it is standard practice to look at satellite imagery of the area to chart an informed plan of action. However, when we were preparing for our walk along the Ken river, we couldn’t access a reliable map of the watercourse all the way from source to mouth.
We tried tracing the river on a map using satellite data for cues, moving upstream from an established point of identity: Chilla ghat, the confluence of the Ken with the Yamuna in Uttar Pradesh. However, this exercise proved difficult and led us astray multiple times, especially in the upper catchment area. It was only later, when walking along the river, did we realise that this was because almost all of Ken’s tributaries have a larger discharge than the Ken itself. Our virtual search for the Ken’s source kept taking us to the source of its tributaries in nearby hills. Thanks to the walk, we now have an actual and detailed map of the river that we intend to share soon.
Small rivers make big rivers. The health of big rivers depends on their smaller partners. But while bigger rivers are discussed, small rivers are normally absent in public discourse. They often lack govt or society’s attention.
Smaller rivers, typically tributaries of bigger rivers, are essential part of river eco-system. They hold the key to rejuvenation of big rivers. These small rivers are under multiple threats. They are slowly succumbing to damming, growing pollution, encroachments, mining and water extraction threats among others.
Kilkila is one such small river, with a fascinating story of its own.
सैनड्रप व वेदितम, प्रेस विज्ञप्ति ,पन्ना, वीरवार 19 अपै्रल 2018
1 केन नदी पदयात्रा के बारे में
केन नदी का नाम भारत की स्वच्छ नदियों में शुमार है। 427 किमी लंबी केन नदी, रीठी विकासखण्ड़, कटनी जिला, मध्यप्रदेश से निकलकर चिल्ला घाट, बांदा जिला उत्तरप्रदेश में यमुना नदी में समाहित हो जाती है। केन नदी राष्ट्रीय नदी गंगा के जलागम क्षेत्र का हिस्सा है। इसे करीब से देखने व समझने के लिए नदियों पर अध्ययनरत संस्थाओं साउथ एशिया नेटवर्क आन डैमस्, रिवर्स एंड पीपल (सैनड्रप) दिल्ली और वेदितम इंडिया फाडेशन, कलकता ने मिलकर केन नदी पदयात्रा का आयोजन किया। इससे पहले दोनों सस्ंथाए गंगा और यमुना नदी पर भी लंबी यात्राए कर चुकी हैं।
The field which is believed to be origin of Ken River in Rithi block, Katni district. (All pics taken during Ken River Yatra, SANDRP & Veditum)
कठिन भोगौलिक क्षेत्र के चलते इस पदयात्रा को तीन चरणों (जून 2017, अक्तूबर 2017 एवं अपै्रल 2018) में पूरा किया गया। इस यादगार पदयात्रा को पूरा करने में 33 दिन लगे। लगभग 600 किलो मीटर पैदल सफर के दौरान बांदा, पन्ना जिलों में केन नदी के तटों पर स्थित 100 ये अधिक गावों से गुजरना हुआ और 60 से अधिक गाववालों से केन नदी के अतीत एवं वर्तमान स्थिति, नदी क्षेत्र में जल स्रोतों की स्थिति, भूजल स्तर, खेती-सिंचाई, वन-वनस्पति, पशु-पक्षी, केन-बेतवा नदी जोड़ योजना, नदी बाढ़ प्रकृति, केन नदी जैव विविधता आदि नदीतंत्र संबंधी अनेक विषयों पर बात ग्रामीणों, किसानों, मछुवारों, मल्लाहों, महिलाओं से विस्तृत चर्चा की गई।
SANDRP & VEDITUM: Press Release, Panna, Apr 19, 2018
About the Yatra: The Ken River is considered to be one of India’s cleaner rivers. It is part of the Ganga basin and meets the Yamuna at Chilla Ghat in Banda District, Uttar Pradesh. To closely understand the Ken, this walk along the Ken was organised by SANDRP – South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP) from Delhi and Veditum India Foundation from Kolkata. In the past, these organisations have also undertaken long journeys along rivers Yamuna and Ganga.
The difficult terrain of the Ken River and the harsh weather required this journey to be undertaken in multiple parts (June 2017, October 2017 and April 2018). It required a total of 33 days to complete this over 600 km journey on foot, where we discussed issues of the river, water, agriculture, the proposed Ken Betwa project and other socio-environmental topics with villagers in over 60 villages.
On occasion of International Day of Action for Rivers 14 March 2018, SANDRP presents a compilation of positive rivers stories that took place in the year 2017. The report highlights the exemplary rivers restoration work done by communities, village Panchayats. It also attempts to acknowledge remarkable on going protests and struggle by fisherfolks, villagers and river communities in rural areas to protect the lifelines from unsustainable development projects. The report also presents the interesting “River Marches” where citizens have come forward to take actions against the threats on rivers in Urban areas and encouraging “River Walks” helping citizens rediscover their bond with RIVERS. Continue reading “Positive Rivers Stories 2017: Citizens Reconnecting with Rivers”→
This week there are exemplary and encouraging wetlands revival stories from three metro cities of Chennai, Hyderabad and Delhi. In the first example from Hyderabad, meticulously chosen plant species such as tulsi, aswagandha, citronella and hibiscus have been used to create an artificial island to clean Neknampur Lake. The treatment islands are composed of four layers of which the bamboo base keeps the entire structure afloat. Based on soil-less hydroponics, these floating treatment wetlands absorb excess nitrates, thereby reducing the chemical content of the lake water. Microorganisms present in the wetland break down organic matter while the root systems filter out pollutants and sediments. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/3500-saplings-floating-islands-help-rejuvenate-hyd-neknampur-lake-75819 (The News Minute, 3 Feb. 2018)
Similarly, Chennai-based Care Earth Trust along with the public works department (PWD) and the civic body has managed to restore three urban lakes. While many of the smaller wetlands have vanished over time, many mid-sized wetlands seem to have shrunk by almost 65 percent. Thanks to their joint effort, invasive hyacinth was removed from the Narayanapuram Lake in Pallikaranai, while sewer lines, which emptied into the Perungalathur Lake, have now been plugged. A detailed restoration proposal has been forwarded to the PWD regarding the Korattur-Madhavaram-Ambattur lakes. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/hyacinth-out-sewer-line-plugged-three-water-bodies-restored/articleshow/62748110.cms (The Times of India, 2 Feb. 2018)
Meanwhile, Delhi Jal Board (DJB) has taken up interesting new project of creating an artificial lake in Dwarka. The project will supply water in sub-city and improve ground water level too. DJB has approved Rs. 56 crore for the project which will be completed in next seven months. This would the first model project wherein a lake will be used to augment water supply. The special lake is being created next to the Dwarka water treatment plant (WTP) will have a sand bed to allow maximum percolation of water into the ground. It will have a capacity of 10 million gallons (MGD). The project is expected to add supply of 5-6 million gallons water to Dwarka every day.
2005 से 2008 के बीच पन्ना जिले की कलेक्टर ने अपने कार्यकाल के दौरान केन-बेतवा परियोजना के बारे में अपने शीर्ष अधिकारियों और विभागों को पत्रों की एक श्रृंखला लिखी थी। इन पत्रों में उन्होंने एक चौंकानेवाला निष्कर्ष दिया था कि यदि केन बेसिन के लोगों की पानी की बुनियादी जरूरतें पूरी की जाए, तो केन नदी में कोई अतिरिक्त पानी ही नहीं बचेगा। उन्होंने यहाँ तक लिखा था कि केन-बेतवा नदी जोड़ो परियोजना केन बेसिन के लोगों के लिए एक त्रासदी होगी।
एसएएनडीआरपी (SANDRP) को मिले दस्तावेजों से यह पता चलता है कि 2005 से 2008 के बीच पन्ना कलेक्टर के रूप में अपने कार्यकाल के दौरान उन्होंने केन बेतवा परियोजना को रोकने के लिए कड़ा संघर्ष किया था। उन्होंने दिखाया था कि यदि मध्य प्रदेश 1983 के अपने जल संसाधन मास्टर प्लान को केन बेसिन में लागू करता, तो बेतवा बेसिन में भेजने के लिए कोई पानी ही नहीं बचता। इसे देखते हुए उन्होंने हताश होकर अंततः यह निष्कर्ष निकाला कि केन-बेतवा परियोजना “पन्ना जिले के निवासियों और केन नदी बेसिन के अन्य जिलों के लिए विनाशकारी दुष्परिणामों वाली होगी।”
Above: Ken River in Panna district (Photo by SANDRP)
In a series of letters that then collector of Panna district wrote when she was collector of this Bundelkhand district for close to three and a half years, she made startling conclusion that Ken river has no surplus water, if the basic water needs of people of Ken Basin residents are fulfilled. The documents that SANDRP has now received show that during her tenure as Panna collector between 2005 and 2008, she fought hard to stop the Ken Betwa project. She showed that if the Madhya Pradesh’s own water resources master plan of 1983 were to be implemented in Ken Basin, there would be no water left for export to Betwa basin. An exasperated IAS officer ultimately had to conclude that the Ken Betwa project “holds disastrous implications for the residents of Panna district as also other districts of the Ken river basin.” Continue reading ““Ken Betwa Project is Disaster for Ken Basin People, there is NO surplus water in Ken Basin”: Panna Collector”→
“Oh my god! I wont have believed that such an amazingly beautiful river canyon exists in India had I not seen this!” These were my first words, believe or not, on seeing Raneh Falls earlier this year. It was such mesmerizingly beautiful scene that I could not believe no one has even mentioned that this whole site is likely to be destroyed by the proposed Ken Betwa Project (KWP).