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  India   All India  24 Apr 2017  India’s ‘cleanest’ river Narmada going Ganga way?

India’s ‘cleanest’ river Narmada going Ganga way?

THE ASIAN AGE. | RABINDRA NATH CHOUDHURY
Published : Apr 24, 2017, 6:48 am IST
Updated : Apr 24, 2017, 6:48 am IST

Narmada among one of six major river basins in world facing existential crisis, says a US report.

Narmada river
 Narmada river

Bhopal: The Narmada is decaying too fast to hold on to her reputation of being the “cleanest” river of India for long.

Degeneration of the 1,312-km-long river, considered the lifeline of Central India, has come into sharp focus with the government-sponsored “Save Narmada” drive, billed as the world’s longest campaign involving a river, set to end on May 15 this year.

No wonder, Washington-based World Resources Institute has recently identified the Narmada as the one of six major river basins in the world facing existential crisis.

“The Narmada is decaying very fast. It may go Ganga way if steps are not taken urgently to address the aggravating pollution problem facing the river,” P.G. Najpandey, who has waged an unrelenting battle for the past two decades, even taking the matter to the court, for preservation of the river, told this newspaper on Sunday.

A recent report by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has sounded a warning on the growing level of pollution in the river.

The study by the CPCB has found that the 160-km-long flow of river from Mandla to Bhedaghat and 80-km-long flow from Sethani Ghat to Nemawar in Madhya Pradesh are highly polluted.

The CPCB has declared the entire stretch of river flowing in MP’s Jabalpur district as polluted in its latest report.

The pollution has caused growth of azolla weed, a native aquatic plant found in still or slow-moving water bodies, in vast expanses of the river, posing a huge threat to aquatic species.

“Aqua species of the Narmada such as giant fishes and turtles have gone extinct due to the pollution,” the researcher said.

In fact, the Narasinghpur district collector has sent an SOS to the state government recently calling for urgent steps to tackle the azolla menace which has assumed alarming proportion in the river flowing in his district.

“The Narmada has turned green between Jabalpur and Omareswar owing to azolla menace,” Dr Najpandey said.

Effluents of dairy farms coming up along the banks of the river in Jabalpur and Hosangabad districts, including cattle dung, have led to growth of azolla weeds in the river flowing in the belt.

Key factors which contributed to degeneration of the Narmada included sewage of the river bank cities, and massive deforestation along the banks of the river and its tributaries.

Sewage of 52 small and big cities located on the banks of the river has found way to the river, causing its pollution.

Significantly, many sewage treatment plants proposed in some of the cities are facing delay in completion due to cases relating to them pending before the court. Many other such plants, which are on pipeline, are yet to take off due to paucity of funds.

“An Rs 1,500 crore project, envisaging development of sewage treatment plants and sewage networks in river bank cities, has been mooted to stop sewage of the human habitations from flowing into the river,” Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board spokesman told this newspaper.

Similarly, massive deforestation on the banks of the river and its tributaries has reportedly led to decline in flow in the river.

Unlike Ganga, which is fed by glacier, Narmada is fed by monsoon, forests and its 41 tributaries. Amarkant forest, origin of Narmada, has of late witnessed massive deforestation.

In fact, some of the minor tributaries have almost either dried or reduced to mere nullahs over the years causing drought in some areas in the river basin.

An official study, conducted in 2014-15, has revealed that the water flow at the foot of Sardar Sarovar dam, built on the river, has come down by 37 percent as compared to the flow recorded in 2004-05.

According to the water resources department report, the forest cover in the river basin which was 52283 sq km in 1991 has shrunk to 50253 sq km in 2003.

“The much- hyped save Narmada campaign will hardly serve any purpose. It is now time to act, not to preach, to save the river”, Dr Najpandey said.

Tags: narmada river, save narmada, cpcb
Location: India, Madhya Pradesh, Bhopal