Even as the probe panel appointed by the Yogi Adityanath government is yet to submit its report on the alleged misuse of funds on Gomti riverfront channelisation, a researchers group working on Lucknow’s lifeline has made some scathing indictment on the project.
Pointing towards glaring anomalies and serious violations of norms by authorities, the study group Ballobox India claims work on the project was undertaken without getting an Environment Impact Assessment study (EIA) – a mandatory prerequisite – done.
A copy of the report accessed by Hindustan Times shows that the channelisation work could have far-reaching impact on river’s natural resources and water quality.
“The reality of riverfront development is a badly done civil work. Heavily concretised riverbed has stopped the flow and made river-life dead,” said one of the members of the research group.
The river, he said, has become a victim of greed of some developers and officials and the saddest part of the whole episode was that the damage cannot be undone.
“I was at Khatu Shyam Mandir on the banks of the river the other day. The water was stinking. The intercepting drains were in utter mess,” he said
The organisation has submitted the findings to NITI Aayog, Prime Minister Office (PMO), National Clean Ganga Mission (NCGM) and other watchdog on rivers and environment protection.
“The IIT Roorkee report (2013) on Gomti had made clear recommendation not to tinker with the 250 m minimum width for the river,” the study points out adding that the concrete jacketing of the river as part of its channelization will have a drastic impact and irreversibly damage the riverbed and ecology.
It would also affect cultural heritages along the banks like Monkey Bridge (now no more) and more than 20 historically important ghats. The 23 nullahs (drains) opening into the river, which are now being diverted, says the report, were actually natural rainwater drainage systems of the city, acting like arteries of the river pumping surplus water.
“All these natural drains are either being concretised or piped to carry city sewage. How do we plan to feed the river and ground water table, with rain water catchment?” questions the report
“Due to diaphragm wall on both sides, sand banks are lost and so are the breeding grounds for turtles. Commercial development and promenades have taken a toll on natural swamps, forests, living shorelines and hiking trails,” points out the report.
In his meeting with the officials of irrigation department on Thursday, chief minister Yogi Adityanath said that the river channelisation project undertaken during the Samajwadi Party regime was a glaring example of misuse of public money.
He has already pruned the makeover budget of the dream project of former CM Akhilesh Yadav by Rs 300 crore and said that he was awaiting report of the probe panel and would fix accountability of those responsible for the criminal waste of public money.
The Rs 2450 crore budget has now been pruned to Rs 2,100 crore by the state government.