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Why Gomti river is more polluted than Ganga

Recent reports about river Gomti being much degraded as compared to Ganga betrays our piecemeal approach to looking at the latter. This is at the root of many ills facing them and is part of the challenge that we need to overcome while working to restore and maintain our rivers as living and healthy beings

opinion Updated: May 29, 2017 17:58 IST
A new CAG report has said the Gomti river in Lucknow is more polluted than the Ganga in Varanasi. (HT)

Prick or pinch anywhere and the pain is in equal measure, signifying the wholeness of a human body as a living being.

As we impart living status to our rivers beginning with Ganga and Yamuna and now Narmada, are we conscious of their similar wholeness?

Recent media reports citing CAG findings about river Gomti (a major tributary of Ganga) being much degraded as compared to river Ganga betrays our piecemeal approach to looking at Ganga or any other river.

This piecemeal approach to rivers is we believe at the root of many ills facing them and is part of the challenge that we need to overcome while working to restore and maintain our rivers as living and healthy beings.

Despite there being millions of life forms on earth, we humans can hardly think beyond our own selves when it comes to visualising a living being. So it would be in the fitness of things to try and understand the essentials of a healthy river comparing it to a healthy human.

Just like unblemished blood is essential to a healthy human so is wholesome water to a healthy river. Blood circulates (flows) within a human body through an intricate system of arteries and veins commonly termed the circulatory system governed by heart as the pump. Water likewise flows into a river body brought to it through gravity by a network of small and big tributaries spread all over its catchment. No wonder there is a remarkable visual similarity between human circulatory system and the intricate network of tributaries of a river system that often results in rivers being called as the earth’s arteries.

In short just like a healthy human requires unfettered flow of adequate and healthy blood within it, a river requires unfettered flow of adequate and unblemished water from all over its catchment. And when things do not go as per the script both humans and rivers could face existential challenges.

More over a living entity performs its various life functions due to a number of systems that are integral to it.

In case of human body the key ones include circulatory (delivers blood to each nook and corner), respiratory (takes in oxygen and exhales carbon di oxide), digestive (breaks food into nutrition and energy) and skeletal (provides frame) systems. Weakening or obstruction to the smooth functioning of any of these would result in sickness creeping into the human body. In case of obstruction anywhere in the circulatory system serious situation including death might result.

A river is likewise made up of systems like longitudinal connectivity (gravity driven downstream flow of water, sediment & nutrients), lateral connectivity (flood period spread of silt laden water over riparian tracts), vertical connectivity (recharge of ground water and ambient humidity) with built in daily, seasonal and periodic rhythms; biota (aquatic and riparian life forms); riparian zone (sediment and wetlands laden); morphology (valleys, braiding, meander etc) and hydrology (in particular the water cycle).

When external influences especially human interventions in form of dams, barrages, embankments, excessive abstraction and diversion of water, over exploitation of biota, invasion and incompatible land use changes in flood plain, straightening of river channel, overload of pollutants etc tamper with the integrity of the systems as mentioned before, rivers tend to go like humans, sick and even die.

So declaration of our rivers as living beings would make sense only when we are appreciative of their wholeness and are ready for a serious relooking at all our interventions in them made at huge cost to the river’s systemic integrity and primarily to derive benefits as if they had no life.

Otherwise such declarations might amount to little more than hollow rhetoric!

Manoj Misra is convener of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan

The views expressed are personal

First Published: May 25, 2017 15:04 IST