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Gomti- Lucknow's lifeline drying from Encroachments and silt

Gomti River and Gomti Riverfront Lucknow - Analysis on Restoration and Development

Gomti River and Gomti Riverfront Lucknow - Analysis on Restoration and Development News and Media Coverage

ज़िला कनेक्ट
ByVenkatesh Dutta Venkatesh Dutta   {{descmodel.currdesc.readstats }}

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Gomti, Lucknow's lifeline drying from Encroachments and silt 

Gomti, Lucknow's lifeline drying from Encroachments and silt 
image:dredged silt under bridge near hanuman setu

Once considered as the lifeline and pride of the City of Nawabs, Gomti seems to be fighting a pitched battle for its survival. And, in the last three decades its flow has receded by more than 60%, and experts fear that if timely intervention is not made, then the river might dry up in another 30 years. 

A study, conducted by the Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University's School of Environmental Sciences has found that the flow of water in the Gomti basin has receded by more than 60% over the last three decades. 

Funded by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the study states that if the current trend continues for another three decades, the river might be completely shorn of water as around 60%-65% flow in it depends on underground water, the recharge of which is hampered due to the increasing number of encroachments and deposition of silt in the river bed. 

The river is characterized by sluggish flow throughout the year, except during monsoons, the study said. It said existing revenue records show several dry patches in the Gomti, especially near its origin, which have been subject to excessive agricultural encroachment. In fact, about 10% of the river's channel is registered in the name of 'gramsamaj' (a village local body) or farm road. The study also says that the Gomti does not even resemble a river near its origin, instead there are only isolated patches of small water bodies in the upper stretch. 
Experts said the situation is assuming alarming proportions as the irrigation department seems unconcerned about removing the silt at regular intervals. Moreover, the level of groundwater has decreased constantly due to increasing population pressure and intensive agricultural practices. Since Gomti is the main source of water to farmers in the downstream region, a number of tube wells have cropped up near the riverbed to exploit groundwater. 

What are we looking for?

Based on empirical evidences and experiences in recent past we are looking at a water catastrophe in India. The country faces drought or deluge, millions moving out of agriculture and then into urban systems without any transition or training. This will not only give to loss of life and land but can be a reason of major unrest in India.
At this point of time we are aiming to build a strong representation to protect water and natural systems at the local level. We want policy interventions and strong implementation at states level to keep natural resources untouched and free to take their own form for generations to come.

The study also suggests that there is a declining trend of groundwater level in the entire basin with 59.85% of basin areas having pre-monsoon groundwater levels between 0 and 5 meters in 1984, which has decreased to 21.64% in 2006. Presently, more than 70 water lift schemes are working in different districts of UP to meet the irrigation demand, drawing a total of around 785 cubic feet of water per second. 

The report also throws light on a severe reduction of forest cover and wetlands due to the rapid land use change and the growing demand of pristine land for urbanization. The forest cover is considered necessary for the retention of monsoon water and hence the recharge of river basin. In Gomti basin, most of the forests are open and sparse. "Except Pilibhit and Khiri, all other districts falling under basin are deficient in green cover. The forest cover has reduced to almost 4% to 5%, which should ideally be increased to 12%-13%. The comparative date for this has been provided by the Central Water Commission," said Venkatesh Dutta, assistant professor at the School of Environmental Sciences. 

Due to discharge of untreated wastewater from about 45 major drains in its entire course of 960 kilometers, the water quality in the Gomti has also deteriorated severely. The stretch between Lucknow and Barabanki and between Sultanpur and Jaunpur is the most polluted. Throughout this stretch, there are many tributaries originating within short distances, which carry wastewater and industrial effluents from different towns and industrial units in the basin. All these factors have resulted in a drastic drop in the river's biodiversity, with decreasing varieties of fishes and aquatic plants due to reduced level of dissolved oxygen. 

Venkatesh Dutta further said, "Though the LDA is planning to come up with a beautification project on 15 kilometers of the Gomti river front, authorities are not bothered about restoring the flow of water in the river. A minimum ecological flow is required to maintain the health system of the river. It is saddening that the government is not focused properly towards water restoration in the Gomti." Instead, he said, the riverfront project is focusing only on developing land value near the bank. 

The study has also suggested certain measures to restore water flow in the river, including integrated planning and water management between various government agencies like irrigation, forest, horticulture and pollution control board, among others. "The current strategy has a limited focus that ignores river and river processes," said Dutta. 

The finding also suggests conservation of ecologically-intact river-floodplain systems, construction of check dams at regular intervals to hold monsoon water, timely removal of silt depositions from the river bed, increasing forest cover and the restoration of tributaries on a priority basis.

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Source TNN April 14, 2013 -

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