More than three decades have gone by now, since the authorities were made to conceive a reliable mechanism to treat the sewerage being generated in the Jammu City. Entire sewerage is drained directly into the Tawi through 17 drains. Discrediting it as one the most polluted Rivers in the State, the culprit is its 5 km-long stretch.
Needless to add in its entire route of 130 kms from Kaplash Peaks in Udhampur, before entering Jammu City, its water is within permissible chemical parameters. Credit goes to the Environmentalists who prevailed upon the Government to take care of the problem before it becomes too late. And apprehensions may rarely prove right; but here it was not the Crystal ball which made this prophesies true but the way deliverance apparatus function. Authorities were supposed to contain pollution, on long and short term basis; till date it remains elusive.
The more Environmentalists interacted with the authorities, the more confusing approach of theirs is revealed. The whole exercise it appears as if the left hand does not know what right hand is doing but even fingers on one hand were behaving at cross purposes. It was a nostalgic expression from a son of the soil from seven seas away which touched the very chords of the heart to baptise the fire to raise a collective voice to save Tawi—in itself an umbilical cord.
On seeing a picture of moon rising far away from a river, he compared it with the rising of moon often viewed from the bank of river Tawi in mid-fifties–behind the shore from Gandhi Memorial Science College Jammu hostel. He compared it with of those days like Juhu beach. Thus the campaign to restore Tawi was conceived and kicked off. Unrestrained release of sewage and dumping of urban waste has squeezed life out of the river.
On the second Saakh Vesrejan in 2011, an unexpected flip came from Brigadier (Retd) Uttam Singh Chib, a veteran decorated soldier who roped in various enthusiasts. Emphasising that the lifeline has been has turned into River of Woe which needs immediate proactive action in practice, he gave a mantra– Save Tawi for Future Generations. He suggested in a meeting to then Commissioner JMC way back in 2014 a number of cost effective and immediate measures to contain the sewerage at site.
Prior to it Mtr Muthharra Dewa, a scientist from State Pollution Control Board who had remained State coordinator ENVIS State Environment Report, member secretary of Expert committee State Action Plan on Climate Change, various environment Committees working on Wetlands, State environment Polices and Tawi Report, had suggested very feasible proposals to deal with the Sewerage and earn Green Points.
Environment Awareness Forum also appealed to Save Tawi, Suriyaputri, Heritage of Dogras for a lifeline as scared as Ganga free from pollution or dumping sewerage channels through Greenpeace.
However, stubborn attitude negates well meaning suggestions.
Authorities had divided the Jammu City into four segment designated as District A, B, C &D to deal with the Sewerage. On right bank of the river, stretch from old city up to Bus stand Jammu fell under A, beyond it in B till the last limit of the Municipality. Similarly, on Left Bank, from Bahu to Nahru market would fall in C and Gandhi Nagar and other remaining areas in D.
Initially assignment was given to the Urban Environmental Engineering Department which has a mandate to undertake job of planning, designing and construction of works of sewerage and drainage in urban areas of the state .It sublet the work to Utter Pardesh National Building Corporation which left the job halfway. Later on Economic reconstruction Agency (ERA) was given assignment of Districts B, C & D.
Introspection makes one to ponder that apart from talking, there is nothing tangible to write home about to bring River Tawi back to its prime glory expect long list of siphoning of Exchequers money.
As of now, Tawi has been rendered a River with no water. It is a common scene our elders had realised on the dawn of civilisation centuries before that free flowing River is important for the humans and environment the lifeblood on this planet, most important being freshwater resources on this earth but at the same time cannot be taken guaranteed forever. Rivers form an interconnected network with the vital links to land, groundwater and the atmosphere. They provide diverse benefits that are often overlooked and undervalued. They provide habitat for the thousands of diverse plants and animal species including valuable commercial fish stocks, deliver sediments to the ecosystem downstream from hundred miles away, help protect urban centres from large storms and devastating floods.
And here before our very eyes the Tawi which has been known for torrential roaring is now a hissing trickle, dying, gasping for the breath and pushing at a great speed the way of the Mythical Sawarsati. The cardinal blunder authorities are in habit of repeating is that Tawi is taken into account from Panjtrithi up to the Bhagwati Nagar– a stretch of about 5-6 kms one beholds from the second Bridge. River authorities loses sight of a basic principle that a healthy river is a living river—a lifeline for everything through which it passes.
Tawi river mandarins from its source near Kaplash Peak in the east to its confluence with Chenab downstream west near Kokerian Marh Block after traversing a total length of 177 Kms. Emerging from Kaplash Peak on way to Dudu in its distance of 45 kms a number of Glacial feed streamlets join it from right Bank such as Pharas Nal, Marlid Nal, Surali Da Nal and Lap Nal etc. Further, small and big streams from southern side on left bank are added and Tawi takes shape of a vibrant Civilisation fed River. After Jammu city, Tawi gets divided into two major Channels known as Baddi Tawi and Nikki Tawi, and between the two, there is an island called Lakshamanpur.
All those concerned with Tawi to keep it in perfect health as per laid down parameters have failed. Decision makers have failed to realise the need to protect its health. Success in protecting the condition or health of rivers depends on realistic models of the interaction of landscape, river and human action. Incalcitrant authorities ignored the recommendation of the Parliament Standing Committee on Science, Technology & Environment headed by Ashwani Kumar, former Union Minister as its Chairman who conducted six days visit to all the three regions beginning 24 of May 2015 to study floods in J&K, suggest measures to prevent them.
The Committee felt that action on following points needs to be taken to mitigate the environmental pollution of Jammu:
- Afforestation process not only to bridge the gap between the plantation and trees that are being cut but also to increase the forest areas needs to be taken up in the entire city on war-footing
- Nurseries should be set up on large scale to meet the requirement of saplings.
- Action against encroachment of forest land should be intensified and there should be strict enforcement of laws in this regard.
- The concerned agencies should mobilise the resources for cleaning of river Tawi and immediate action should be taken for the removal of waste on the river bed.
- Solid waste management plan should be incorporated in the Master Plan to cater to increasing requirement.
- Master plan should have provision for green spaces and parks.
- Noise pollution should be tackled effectively.
- Environment should be introduced as a compulsory subject in schools to create awareness.
Needless to add, in its entire length Tawi needs care and necessary measures to bring it in to good health so that it is full of vibrant life and water. Authorities has not taken so far any desired holistic exercise to deal with River from River Engineering aspect in its totality from source till its end a length of 177 kms, catchment area of 2152 Sq kms, divided into 16 Micro watersheds further divided in to 245 Mini Micro watersheds. Each Mini Micro watersheds has to be taken as a basis for planning analysis and to understand behaviour of the River minutely. Authorities over the decades have not done any exercise to collect relevant data to make it basis for remedial measures.
Four natural factors have to be considered for every five years period to assess the health of a River. Vegetation data included vegetation type and coverage Vegetation, rainfall, soil, and topography to investigate the effects of these four factors on runoff and soil loss at the runoff-plot scale. Unfortunately no data of each of the Mini Micro watersheds has been developed till date .There is need to develop water banks on side and at places minor minerals need to be removed as per need should be carried.
Water banks serve as a good water management practice, which storage surface water in areas where water is present in large quantities and transfer it to areas where there is a scarcity for public needs during drought conditions.
It has been observed sediments over the years at places has accumulated, above normal, which needs to be used to remove for free natural passage of river. Bridges abetment has to be protected zealously but there is no rational below fourth bridge removal of minor mineral shall be brought to halt.
It has its own adverse effects: one, during flood in view of no dredging, water shall ingress in the low level areas causing innumerable suffering to human crop and cattle besides precipitate erosion. Second, instead of using it for local needs it get washed down in to the Chenab.
Where lays the wisdom. Congenial atmosphere has to be restored and created wherever necessary for the fish and other aqua life to thrive. It is necessary to adopt latest water management methods to conserve water in areas with heavy rains and use them during drought or in regions with low water levels. Authorities do take part occasionally in the weekly Sunday Sandhiya Arti programme on the left bank near Bikram Chowk, seeking the blessings of Sun God to purify it from pollution Since 2014.
Beyond it there are hardly any tangible activities observed to restore Tawi to its pristine glory.
The writer is a well-known Jammu-based Environmentalist