Saving Rispana and Bindal – Column
For decades, Rispana and Bindal River has been a lifeline of Dehradun city. Though being seasonal rivers, till the late 1970’s, they served as a home to small fishes and children used to spend hours playing with the fresh water of these rivers. They still act as valves to disperse rainwater of the region during heavy rain but, now they are heavily encroached upon and have become the drain veins loosing the actual definition of a river. No matter how important these rivers are for the city, they are being highly polluted by both solid and liquid waste and are swiftly turning into a wasteland. The beds are crammed with polythene bags and other solid wastes.
The health of these rivers has dropped significantly due to the disposition of raw sewage.‘Making a Difference by Being the Difference’, a student based activist group, pointed out in their status report that there is a huge quantity of metal waste in Bindal. The heavy metal concentration is getting higher with every passing year and the negligible amount of water has become a storehouse of pollutants and toxins. On the other hand, the water of the Rispana River is highly concentrated with nitrate, phosphate and other anions and cations due to the ever increasing human activities around these rivers. This status report has been made by MAD on the basis of 40 kilometer treks undertaken by the group members along the banks of Rispana and Bindal.
‘MAD’, met the Union Minister of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Prakash Javadekar, and requested that the two rivers, Bindal and Rispana to be treated as a part of the Ganga basin. They stressed on the importance on the eventual tributaries of the Yamuna River and said that these two rivers, even after being very important to the city, are in utter neglect, due to the constant encroachment, governmental desertion and politics for vote banks. Both these rivers flow through Dehradun before joining the river ‘Suswa’, which flows into the River Ganga after 25 kilometers; therefore making the two rivers a part of the Ganga basin. Such classification makes it harder for the authorities to legitimize illegal constructions and encroachments along the river. The director of ‘National River Conservation Directorate’ (NRCD) of the’ Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change’ (MoEFCC), RN Jindal has stated that both ‘Bindal’ and ‘Rispana’, fall under the Ganga Basin and therefore should be taken care by the ‘Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation’ (MWRRDGR) for maintenance and sustainability.
Other than the piles of garbage, other issue which these rivers face is the increasing number of encroachments on either side of these erstwhile water resources. Slum societies have mushroomed along the rivers and they live amidst the garbage and dirty water that flows in the middle of the river bed. The overwhelming stench of this place makes it very difficult to understand how these slum-dwellers manage to survive. The river bed of ‘Bindal’ is lined with domestic waste, effluents, plastics, animal carcasses and human excreta. According to studies, there are more than 15,000 encroachments along the Rispana River and the carelessness in law enforcement is evident through the usage of Rispana bed as parking areas by most local businesses. Also, trucks are frequently parked in the Rispana and Bindal beds, making the river beds weaker and weaker.
The existing unauthorized colonies are taking a form of slums and are further contaminating these rivers with waste and are polluting them. It is strange that the authorities are not taking any action to curtail the menace and are even legitimizing some of them, which is letting these slum dwellers make their encroachments permanent structures at an ever increasing alarming rate. A lot of dairies dump their milk and organic wastes into the rivers, increasing the problems furthermore and giving them an ugly look. All this has become a game of politics and nothing else; Politicians are only bothered about their vote banks; all these unauthorized colonies are being converted to authorize ones by issuing ration cards to the slum dwellers.
A permanent solution to encroachment issues is simple, the slums should be shifted somewhere else and Hydra projects to revive the rivers should be implicated as fast as possible. Also, several non-governmental organizations, like MAD, should step ahead and create awareness among the people about the conservation of the river and the environment. However, no step is been taken therefore, the miserable situation prevails over Rispana and Bindal. “It is particularly tragic for Rispana since the river carries considerable volume of water which is lost due to pollution. We are distraught seeing a beautiful stream becoming a sewer.” said Abhijay Negi, Founder of MAD. It is important for the State Government to fully understand that it is its responsibility to revive these two rivers. Unless the government steps in, the rivers would be lost forever due to the unplanned urbanization ruling over the city.
The slum dwellers live in great risk in case of heavy rainfalls as Rispana and Bindal are the only two outlets for rain water of the city and thus, preventing the city from being engulfed by flood waters.
Living in such filth not only is hazardous to the environment, but more importantly to the lives of the people there. The amount of garbage and toxic wastes dumped into the rivers, right in front of the slums or even over them, in case of encroachments that are built in the middle of beds, put the lives of these people in danger. Therefore, it is the duty of our government to provide safe dwelling to these people. This would serve as a dual purpose for them, because not only that will ensure the well-being of the people, but will beautify the city as well.
If the state of rivers does not change, the aesthetic part of the city will end up making it look ugly and making life in Doon difficult due to the harmful environment caused by such disastrous situations.
The initiatives taken up by MAD and other organizations help preserve the rivers a little but nothing will ensue without the involvement of the state government. The government has taken some steps towards the cause but more serious actions are needed in order to save the rivers, and the city.