Weeds threaten to strangle Narmada in Madhya Pradesh
Narmada’s showpiece, the Maheshwar Ghat in Khargone district is filled with rotting vegetation on the banks, making it difficult for hundreds of devotees to take a dip or swimenvironment Updated: Feb 11, 2018 22:43 IST
The lifeline of Madhya Pradesh, the 1,312-km long Narmada is choking due to rotting vegetation and alleged mismanagement of dam water, according to experts and local activists.
The river’s showpiece, the Maheshwar Ghat (which impressed the audience in the film PadMan) in Khargone district is filled with rotting vegetation on the banks, making it difficult for hundreds of devotees to take a dip or swim.
The local administration, the Maheshwar Janpad, said it has sprung into action and is now cleaning the Narmada daily.
Its CEO, Kushal Singh Dodve said a major cleaning drive was carried out on February 6 and “over 8 tonnes of rotting vegetation” were taken out from over a one-kilometre stretch.
However, when Hindustan Times visited the spot two days later, rotting vegetation still engulfed the banks, leaving only a few feet of clean water for bathers. “It is becoming difficult to take bath in the past few months. If we come in contact with the filth, we develop rashes,” say Sandeep and Manish, two 11-year-olds who come here to bathe every day.
The condition is worse at Kasrawad, on the other side of the bank from Maheshwar, where there is a proper ghat but fewer bathers. Tourists, who come to see the famous temples of Maheshwar built by 17th century Holkar queen Ahilya Bai, are aghast at the filth.
The rotting vegetation is also killing the fish in the river, putting the hundreds of fishermen in crisis. Drinking water too has become a problem for villages on the banks of the Narmada. Around a 100 km west of Maheshwar, villagers of Pichhod in Barwani district are facing drinking water problem.
“We have to walk two to three kilometres to a hand pump to get water,” says Bacchu Ram Awasia, a local.
According to Sally Holkar, co-founder of the Rehwa Society and WomenWeave, there is an urgent need to clean the river.
“We must restore Narbadaji (Narmada) to her rightful beauty and purity. There is no margin for delays or excuses,” she says.
Locals say the Omkareshwar and other dams upstream have reduced the flow of water, creating problems.
Officials of Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA) admitted that this year, the problem has compounded as there was 60% less rainfall in the Narmada catchment area which brought down the water level alarmingly, exposed the vegetation to the sun and dried it up along huge stretches of the river.
The NVDA’s public relations officer Adil Khan said 14 MCM water is being released daily from Omkareshwar dam.
Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has been informed and is monitoring the matter, he added.
Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar blamed the Gujarat elections for aggravating the problem.
“In the run up to the Gujarat elections, water was released in huge quantities from the Omkareshwar dam to build up the level at Sardar Sarovar dam, from which water was released to Sabarmati river where Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew a sea plane on it to impress the electorate. It was Narmada water and it went waste because the farmers did not need it at that time,” she charged.
Khan said the water released is as mandated by the tribunal award. However, some officials in the NVDA, who asked not to be named, conceded that the water did go waste.