Is muck disposal in Uttarakhand Ganga basin the culprit?
As over 2,800 hectares of forests in Uttarakhand have been gutted in fire by now, the debate picks up whether the ongoing Char Dham road project has any role to play behind the smouldering woods?
Social activists, who quiet often roam in the hills, believe so. They claim that a large amount of muck generated by cutting hills have been dumped in the lush green forest on the river banks thus prompting natural water sources to dry up.
Ratan Aswal, social activist from Garhwal, said he has documented the muck disposal in the Ganga basin. He added that the impact of the “illegal activity” was now clearly visible.
“Several natural water sources in the hills have been dried up due to the illegal muck disposal. Water springs play role not only in sorting out drinking water problem but also it maintains moisture thus stopping fire to spread during summers,” Aswal said.
The experts agreed on this. They, however, said besides spring water sources drying up, another reason was dry spell during the winters.
“Of course the forest close to water body be it pond or natural water source remains secure. Chances of spreading forest blaze increases manifold if the surface is dry,” said Dr GCS Negi, scientist (forest ecology) at GB Pant National Institute of Himalayan Environment & Sustainable Development.
Photos clicked by social activists sometime back suggest massive muck disposal in the river valley.
Dehradun-based Citizen for Green Doon had filed a litigation in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) submitting photos and videos of the muck disposal in the river valley.
The NGT has sought reply from the Centre, next hearing in the case is scheduled on May 27.
Deputy commissioner of Garhwal region HS Rawat, when contacted, said the administration was keeping a close tab on the muck disposal.
“However, now contractors don’t throw muck in the valley. They have been asked to make dumping zone where the muck goes,” he said.