With a Rs 2,179 crore transfusion in the offing, the long-ailing Khan river seems set to last for a few more gasping breaths. But with veins coagulated with domestic and industrial waste and oxygen levels depleted by large amounts of rubbish a departure from the intensive care unit appears unlikely anytime soon.
Although the government seems pretty confident about the proposed rejuvenation and clean-up of the Khan river experts believe the picture isn’t too good.
This, after all, is a patient that has been left very weak after a lengthy pummelling by immunity-reducing substances. And has had a bypass to boot in the form of the Indore Habitat Improvement Project.
The stretch from Krishnapura bridge to Khatipura bridge the river is almost in septic condition throughout. The river is used as a nullah through which only domestic and industrial waste flows.
For this reason, maximum depth of water is around 1 foot and breadth is not more than 10 feet. However, both the river’s depth and width increases whenever it is impeded by stop dams built to regulate the flow.
"After Sanwer and up to the confluence point there is sufficient flow and the water is of comparatively better quality, but there is high algal growth from Baman piplya till the confluence," says a review paper titled "Physico-Chemical Parameters for Testing of Present Water Quality of Khan River at Indore" submitted this April by Nighojkar Abhineet and D. Dohare of the Civil Engineering and Applied Mechanics Department, SGSITS.
The domestic sewage of city flows through sedimentation tanks at Kabitkhedi resulting in very bad condition therein, the paper adds. With its vast amounts of untreated industrial effluent, the Khan river’s role in polluting the Kshipra, considered a sacred river, cannot be overstated.
"...wastewater has the greatest potential for polluting the receiving water. Kshipra River is being polluted by (direct) discharge of effluent from industries," says a study by Thoker FA, Manderia S and Manderia K, titled "Impact of Dye Industrial Effluent on Physico-chemical Characteristics of Kshipra River, Ujjain."
"The depletion of oxygen leads to an increase in bacterial contamination, affecting both aquatic life and the quality of water," said waste management consultant Asad Warsi.
Thakurdas Vaishnay, a former engineer with the Water Resources Department stresses the absolute necessity of cleaning up the river but feels attempts to convert it into a perennial river are unlikely to bear fruit. "Initially there was a proposal to reelase water into it from the Narmada Kshipra link project but water from that project would be too expensive to be allowed to just run off. Then the mayor said stop dams would be built to collect rainwater but this too is not very practical," said Vaishnav who retired as a teacher.
"The best solution would be to farm cash crops on the river bed during the non-monsoon period. The authorities can earn a tidy sum by contracting the land to farmers," he added.
And what of talk that the Khan could be the second Sabarmati: "There the Narmada flowed quite close by and there was no need to pump water. Here water will have to be lifted nearly 100 feet," said Vaishnav.