It is no secret that the master key to Yamuna rejuvenation or for that matter any other perennial river is to make it flow as close to its natural flow pattern as possible. How to go about it is no rocket science but is no easy task either for we humans have burdened them with so many of our selfish stakes.
What flows in a river is not just water, but water enriched with energy, minerals, sediments, detritus and life, macro and microscopic plants and animals. It’s only such flow that enables and has enabled rivers over the millennia to fulfill various ecological (& social) functions like erosion and deposition of earth, meander and form floodplains, feed aquifers to replenish the ground water, host aquatic and riparian life forms, connect with the floodplain and its water bodies and complete the water cycle. (Feature image above: Dead Yamuna river at Panipat (Pic by Bhim SIngh Rawat))
It’s heartening to see at least three citizen efforts that media has brought to limelight this week, two in Odisha and one from the banks of Godavari river in Nasik. Besides being citizen efforts, one common theme is that all these initiatives is that they concern rivers. Great news to celebrate in this festival season, also when India Rivers Week is also conducting weekly Dialogues on River sand mining.
Delhiites in early-mid April 2020 were pleasantly surprised to find a much healthy river Yamuna in their city. Social media was full of pictures and videos. Many had resigned not to find a living Yamuna in the city in their lifetime. But the pleasant fact was that the river in the city had indeed as if by magic come alive and presented a picture that was hard to believe. There was a river side which did not stink and looked cleaner than usual.
IMD is happy to declare a monsoon as normal as long as total quantum of rainfall at national scale is within 4% of what is defined as normal monsoon rainfall during June 1 to Sept 30. Even if this means there is spatially or temporally or both spatially & temporally, the total rainfall or its distribution is abnormal in large parts of the country. It was good to see a national newspaper, asking question if the monsoon is normal even though it’s not temporally normal as was the case in large parts of the country this year.
The IMD normal only assures meteorological normal of national monsoon rainfall within given period. It does not assure hydrologic normal nationally or in different parts of the country, nor agricultural normal rainfall nationally or in different parts: sub divisions, states, river basins, districts, talukas/ tehsils or villages and wards. We clearly need much more realistic and nuanced definition of even meteorological Normal monsoon rainfall, which IMD needs to work on. But as far hydrological or agricultural normal rainfall is concerned, both temporally and spatially, those concerned outside IMD will need to work on.
For Mustaqueem Mallah, restoration of Katha River is sole aim of his life. And the 30 years old has been making steady and solid efforts to achieve this for past over 8 years. Belonging himself to Mallah (boatman) community, Mustaqueem has been witnessing the degradation of Yamuna river, flowing close to his village Ramra in Kairana block of Shamli district, Uttar Pradesh.
“Loving rivers is my religion”, says Mustaqueem who has formed the Kevat Mallah Ekta Samiti to raise the issues of fishermen, boatmen and riverbed farmers the river dependent communities who have been suffering adversely due to absence of flows in Yamuna river for most months of a year.
(Feature image by Nishant Panwar, Vikas Nagar, shows Yamuna River in upper reaches in Jan. 2019)
On April 11, 2019, is the birthday of Yamuna river. The Yamuna Jayanti comes every year on the sixth day of ‘Chaitra’ (summer) Navratra. The Kapat (door) of famous Yamnotri shrine would be opened this year on May 7 for Char Dham Yatra.
In April-May 2019 India will vote to elect 17th Lok Sabha or Parliament. On April 11, the 1st of the 7 polling days, the home state of Yamuna river, Uttrakhand and the districts of Western Uttar Pradesh through which Yamuna river flows, will vote.
The two other states heavily dependent and Yamuna river, Haryana and Delhi will see voting on May 12. The district Mathura, Agra, Etawa, Kanpur, Hamirpur, Fatehpur and Allahabad of Uttar Pradesh located along Yamuna river will witness voting from second (April 18) to sixth phase on May 12.
The NDA government come to power in May 2014 promising clean Ganga and Yamuna. The thousands of devotees of Mathura and residents of Agra were especially convinced of a promise of clean flowing Yamuna river. People were also hopeful that the government of the same party, BJP, in centre and in key basin states of Yamuna (Uttarakhand, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh) would bring a change in the situation. But over the five years, things have only deteriorated further. In fact, under the present government apart from dams and pollution a illegal sand mining has emerged as equally dangerous threat for the Yamuna rivers from upper reaches through middle and lower stretches.
On the occasion of Yamuna Jayanti, the Yamuna Nadi Mitra Mandli (YNMM) a voluntary group of villagers and concerned; established along the length of Yamuna by Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan is highlighting the issues affecting the Yamuna river and riparian communities which have remained unaddressed during past five years and none of the political parties even now have remotely focused on these. They also warn that ignoring the problems of Yamuna and dependent community will soon affect every state and dependent people in a significant way apart from endangering the river itself.
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.
National Institute of Disaster Management, Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt of India invited Himanshu Thakkar, Coordinator of SANDRP, to speak on the topic at IHC on Saturday. At the packed hall with participants that included members from Central Water Commission, National Disaster Management Authority, Embassies, Media and Civil Society, the speaker explained how unwise and unaccountable operation of dams, violating all norms, hugely contributed to the proportions of the Kerala flood disaster. Giving the example of Idukki dam, he showed, how if the dam was operated as per rule curve, its contribution to the floods could have been reduced by over 50%. Similar is the story of other dams in Kerala.
Accepting that reservoirs operation and flood management in India lack scientific supports, Madhavan Nair Rajeevan, Secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences, in an interview has revealed that dams and water reservoirs need flood management systems that use scientific methods to understand when the time is right to open the gates.
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.