May 21, 2014
LUCKNOW: In Madho Tanda, Pilibhit, the originating point of Gomti, at least 33 villages encroach the river. This was the situation three years back, when district administration tried to rid Gomti’s banks of encroachments after Gomti yatra, an awareness march by civil society organisations, in March-April 2011. In June 2011, UP chief secretary had directed the Irrigation department to restore flow in the river and remove encroachment from its banks right from Pilibhit to Ghazipur. In a high level meeting, Irrigation department was asked to prepare an action plan for revival of the river by demarcating its floodplain and removing encroachment. Due to lack of sustained action, however, the state of the river remains same, say environmentalists. To highlight the plight of Gomti, civil society organisations had taken out a Gomti ‘yatra’ to spread the message to keep Lucknow’s lifeline clean. Starting from Gomti’s origin in Pilibhit, the ‘yatra’ passed through 12 districts to come up with ground realities. Gomti study group, part of the ‘yatra’, had collected water samples along 30 segments of the river, spoke to locals living along the river and prepared a citizens’ report for Gomti restoration, which was handed over to the state government. Gomti was found heavily encroached in its upper segment between its origin point in Pilibhit and Naimisharanya in Sitapur. In the first 60 km, the river has an intermittent course, with no flow in non-monsoon months. Famers have encroached the river at several places to the extent that river-bed is non-existent. “At Dhimapur Bridge and all along Puranpur-Khuthar road (Shahjahanpur), the river is filled with silt and farmers crop for seven months without water,” highlighted the study. After district administration assessed land records for Pilibhit, about 126 permanent settlers were found spread across 34-km area along the banks of Gomti. People have land between streams of the river. But since the settlers got rights to the land four decades back, district administration could not drive them away. The then DM of Pilibhit, Kaushal Raj Sharma, acted tough. In 33 villages identified, about 400 temporary encroachers were found farming on Gomti banks. The district administration had planned to restore greenery in the area cleared of encroachment. This would have kept encroachers at bay, but a lot remains to be done say environmentalists. During the ‘Yatra’, catchment details and tributaries were studied and water quality assessed. It came out that Gomti, at its origin point, does not look like a river or a stream but isolated patches of lakes with very little water. Gomti becomes perennial only after Ekkotarnath in Pilibhit. After Pilibhit, it enters Banda in Shahjahanpur and then on it meets with a tributary Jhukna river in Khutar, Shahjahanpur, after which its flow is stronger. Some 75 km away from its point of origin, Gomti is joined by several other tributaries, most of which are now non-existent, polluted or severely reduced in volume due to excessive drawing of water or encroachment.
* Remove encroachment from floodplain and declaring 500 metre from river midstream as no construction zone
* Extensive plantation in zone to keep encroachers away or creation of river gardens
* Identifying business groups, educational institutions, banks, NGOs who could adopt 500 meter stretch of the river for developing forests/gardens
* Strengthening bond of locals with the river so that they actively participate in conservation
As posted in Timesofindia.indiatimes.com