A floodplain, to quote rivers expert, D Mussared, is as important to rivers as bark is to trees. Just as the sap flows through the outermost ring of a tree, not through its centre, the lifeblood of a river ebbs and flows on its floodplains. HT Estates, caught up with Manoj Misra, environmentalist and convenor of the Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan.
What according to you is the impact of commercialisation and encroachments on river floodplains?
There are two types of encroachments – state sponsored such as the recently-concluded World Culture Festival or state supported such as the construction of the Akshardham Temple. The second type is occupation or encroachment of the floodplain by people by default such as in Rajiv Nagar, Zakir Nagar, Batla House etc. In Greater Noida, there are farmhouses in the active floodplain. Such “misadventures” are taking place because MoEF has defaulted on notifying the RRZ notification.
How effective is the Master Plan in protecting the rivers and other water bodies in a city?
As far as the master plans are concerned, these are often weak documents as they can be amended by way of a public notification. These documents have the liberty to change land use and its provisions provide very little security. There needs to be a statutory regulatory regime in place which should be far more structured than a master plan.
Rapid urbanisation has taken place along rivers all over the world, especially in Europe. Should we follow that model?
Unlike rivers in Europe, ours are monsoonal rivers. The problem European rivers face is that of pollution and not water flow. Rapid urbanisation along the river was a folly which they have now realised.
Should the Sabarmati model be emulated to rejuvenate river Yamuna?
The Sabarmati project is not designed to revive or rejuvenate the river in Ahmedabad. It is a 10.5 km artificially created canal in Ahmedabad. The question here is whether the NCR governments want a beautiful canal in the city or do they want to restore a river. Sabarmati is a stagnant water body bounded by reinforced cement concrete walls. By concretising large parts of the riverbed with RCC walkways and roads and gardens, it is more a case of creating new urban infrastructure. Already Rs 1000 crore have been spent on the Yamuna but nothing has changed. Yamuna is a flood prone river and the water security of Delhi depends on floods actually taking place in the river. It is also the only way groundwater gets recharged in the city. Sabarmati riverfront project cannot be called a river rejuvenation project but more of a real estate project where the riverfront has been developed.
Since we are dealing with a living ecosystem, we have to develop our own models such as in Varanasi and Mathura. There you have the riverfront in the form of ghats and they are our true riverfronts. We should look at the boulevards model.