Rivers are free-flowing spirits. But when man interferes, it can cause more harm than good. Today’s Something Good, though, has a good ending. Read on!
Take the example of the Godavari River, the second largest river in the country after the Ganga, originating about 25 kilometers from Nashik in Trimbakeshwar.
It’s largely a free-flowing river, until it touches the Panchavati area. Where a large number of devotees visit, the river endures a concrete bed.
It all started in 2002, where the bed was concretised for the Kumbh Mela.
“The concretization of the river bed was done in the year 2002 for Ram Kund (pond) and Lakshman Kund, a span of around two km,” says Devang Jani, an environmentalist, living on the banks of the Godavari River in Nashik.
However, the concretization was a part of the soon-forgotten development project. In 2014, historians shed some light that seven holy ponds were blocked by the concrete.
“A deeper study and exploring historical documents like the ‘Bombay Presidency Nasik Gazeteer, 1883’ revealed the presence of 17 ponds in the stretch. They are also present in the city survey conducted by the British Deputy Land Record Map of 1917,” Devang said.The locations of these ponds were the places where concretization was done.
“Further studies from experts revealed that the 17 ponds were natural springs and small water sources, that ensured the river water keeps flowing, keeping the river alive,” Devang said.
That’s not all. There has been other heavy impact on people too.
“Every year the water is released from the Gangapur dam which eventually floods the river and swells the water flow area. However, the removal of the concrete before the monsoon increased the depth and size of the water channel,” said Narendra Dharne, a resident along the banks of the river. Residents often have to relocate in fear of flooding too, he added.
So, for 5 years, Devang fought a battle with the Nashik Municipal Corporation to remove the concrete and restore the river to its original state.
Finally, based on the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) Devang filed with the Bombay High Court in 2015, Devang was to instructed make a presentation to the Nashik Municipal Corporation (NMC) and ordered to act within two months.
“Later in 2017, the then municipal commissioner Tukaram Mundhe approved the decision and ordered to de-concretize the structure under the Smart City project,” told Devang.After many administrative delays, the work order was finally sanctioned, and the work of removing the concrete began from the Gandhi Talav (lake), downstream from the Ahilyadevi Holkar bridge, on December 13, 2019.
The natural springs have started flowing again after 19 years, and the change is visible at various levels.
“The pollution level due to water stagnation has reduced. The natural springs ensure the river is flowing naturally and the floods have reduced as well,” Devang said.
It was also suggested to remove obstacles from the river bed to ease the flow of water.“Steps are currently being taken accordingly, and the immediate results are that these areas did not get flooded like they usually do,” said Devang.
Free from the fear of flooding, the residents around the patch could heave a sigh of relief. “We realized that concretization causes artificial flooding and hence the decision to remove the concrete is for the better,” Narendra Dharne said.
Another local Jagdish Ramaiya, living beside the river for 50 years, said, “This year the water did not leave the bank, as the water in the river started flowing freely. The chances of floods have reduced drastically,” he added.