Did You Know About This Initiative To Save A River In Delhi’s Backyard?

With a rural background, Raman Kant Tyagi had experienced the positive effects that rivers and ponds have on the lives of rural communities.  He decided, at a very young age, to dedicate his life towards society and the environment. He knew the task was difficult, but he was determined to work towards conservation of natural water resources like ponds, johads, rivers and the promotion of organic ways of farming.

Having done a heroic work of rejuvenating the Kali river, which is still ongoing, the last decade taught Raman about the innumerable aspects of revival of rivers and he could devise an actual model needed for reviving a small/big river stream.

His model focused on five fundamentals, i.e. (1) Management of liquid and solid wastes; (2) Community awareness; (3) Dense plantation; (4) Conservation of Ponds; and (5) Chemical-free farming.

He believed that if about 80% of the above fundamentals are applied, any river stream can be brought back to its original glory. Hence, a detailed plan based on these principles was devised.

It was seen that various central and state governments schemes have been running, for rivers, water, villages, agriculture, health and animals at the District, Tehsil and Block levels, but still, the rivers remain heavily polluted.

As early as in 2006, Raman had decided to rejuvenate the Hindon river, and a detailed study of the river stretch was carried out after which, the river’s first map was formed successfully.

With the help of hundreds of volunteers, a journey started in the year 2017 to find out the true origin of the Hindon river and its condition. The group found out that the river originates from the Shivalik mountain ranges and forests of Saharanpur district and passes through Muzaffarnagar, Meerut, Baghpat, and Ghaziabad, travelling for 355 kilometres before finally meeting the Yamuna River at Momnathal village forests situated about 500 m from Tilwada village in the Gautam Budh Nagar district. There are about 865 villages situated near Hindon and its tributary rivers.

Raman was very upset with the water shortage and water quality not only around his village but around the important towns of Western Uttar Pradesh that are close to prominent tributaries of the mighty river Ganga.

Due to the polluted waters of the Hindon and its tributaries, the underground water of villages on the banks of these rivers has also turned poisonous. Several villages have been witnessing cases of water-borne diseases. Many deaths have been reported due to deadly diseases caused straight because of polluted water consumption. Some farmers had to still use this polluted water for irrigating their crops due to the unavailability of an alternate water source which has led to the presence of banned Persistent Organic Pollutants in the field-soil and crops.

The Pithlokhar Village of Meerut District, where the Hindon and Kali rivers meet, is surrounded by 18 villages, and the colour of the water is dark and the quality is very poor and contains high levels of nickel and sulphide.  On the other bank of the river, in a village called Atali in Muzaffarnagar District, five persons died of cancer during the past five years.

Raman took a vow to do something for these villages and formed the ‘My Hindon – My Initiative’ under the Nirmal Hindon Initiative, where, along with volunteers and activists, programs have been undertaken for the restoration of the Hindon river.

According to Uttar Pradesh Water Department, 1215.43 MLD of sewage is produced from Saharanpur, Muzaffarnagar, Budhana, Baghpat, Meerut, Ghaziabad, and Noida city, which is transported through 68 drains.

About 450 MLD of this sewage is filtered in different city systems but the rest 765.43 MLD remains unfiltered due to unavailability of proper sewage treatment system. All of this ends up in the Hindon River and its tributaries.

The cleaning of Hindon river is, therefore, a mammoth task and requires the support of all stakeholders, including the government, the civil community, and the donors.

It is said, “well begun is half done”.  A beginning has thus been made and a cleanliness drive was conducted of about 15 kms stretch of the river, near the Pura Mahadev village situated on the borders of Meerut and Baghpat district. It involved hundreds of community volunteers, activists and officials of the local departments. The volunteers cleared the river manually getting rid of the dense growth of water hyacinth plants and paved way for the standing waters to flow and come back to life. The campaign went for about 50 days as part of the successful launch of the Nirmal Hindon Initiative program.

Different mediums were employed to effectively spread awareness about the River work. The benefits of Facebook, web portal, Pamphlets, Posters, newspapers (Hindi, English, regional language), stickers, banners, wall logos, documentary, etc were well harnessed to create awareness among the public.

Learning from the revival of the Kali river, Raman had understood strongly about the strength of community mobilisation and major focus was given on forming a systematic community structure to provide support to the entire movement.

A panchayat of the pradhans (heads) was held on May 11, 2018, with an objective to bring together all the villages located on both sides of the river banks in Meerut and Baghpat to the Hindon Sewa Program. The Gram Pradhans, Gram Secretaries, and Patwaris of 42 villages of Baghpat and 22 villages of Meerut which fall within one km of the river bank participated in it. Each pradhan was asked to take up cleaning of Hindon River which is in front of their village, assisted by MNREGA workers and Nirmal Hindon Samiti of the village. Each village which cleans their part of the river was entrusted to ensure that it is not polluted again.

A central committee of 5 members was formed under the Meri Nadi – Meri Pehel initiative. A Committee of 5 members was formed in each district the river passes through. In every village, within 5 kms of the bank of the river on either side, a 5-member village committee is formed. At the central level, there is a two-member media committee. District and Media committees are selected by the central committee and the village committees by respective district committees. All members of these committees are social activists who are concerned about environmental issues, subject specialists and/or retired officers.

An awareness-raising initiative was done for the 1 kilometre area on both sides of the river through Nukkad-nataks (street plays), Nukkad meetings, wall logos, school competitions, Pad Yatras from one village to another and public discussions to raise awareness among the communities.

This was done with the motive to give a reflection on reasons of river pollution and what should be done to reduce these. These programs will be conducted in all seven districts where the river flows. A documentary film is also being made.

Villagers of Lahoregarh, Mirzapur, Raasna and Pura supported the program to the extent that they had arranged for daily meals for about 250-300 Hindon volunteers for the whole duration.

To ensure regular flow of water in the river, 350 saplings of different tree species were planted instantly on the banks of the river and a Van Mahotsav was celebrated by the Forest Department and civil organisations. So far, about 30,000 tree saplings have been planted on the banks of Hindon and its tributary rivers Kali West, Krishni, Paavdhoi and Naagdeh in Meerut, Saharanpur, Muzaffarnagar, Ghaziabad, Gautam Budh Nagar, Shamli and Baghpat.

Raman intends on providing a comprehensive solution to clean water for agriculture and for drinking. Raman is already working to promote organic agriculture in the region, to make sure that the rivers don’t get polluted with chemical fertilizers.

He devised an LR compost – a trademark developed by him and has thrown a challenge to sugarcane industry who is promoting chemical fertilizers mercilessly, by providing an economic organic compost.  He also promoted the culture of growing turmeric and ginger between the rows of sugarcane fields that not only provides additional income to farmers but also helps the sugarcane crop from the growth of unwanted insects as turmeric and ginger are known to have antibiotic properties.

Raman said that there will be no let-up till the time the Government chalks out a clear road map for cleaning the river Hindon and creates a conducive condition for the health and hygiene of the villagers.

This initiative is another feather in the cap of Raman Tyagi, who was awarded by the Department of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation, Ministry of Jal Shakti, Government of India as a ‘Water Hero’.  The work Raman is doing is in line with the Earth Day Network’s (EDN’s) Great Global Cleanup program and hence EDN’s partnership with NEER Foundation appears to be long-term and EDN wishes Raman and NEER Foundation all the best in their future endeavours.

Raman Kant Tyagi can be reached at: Natural Environmental Education and Research (NEER) Foundation, Ist Floor, Samrat Shopping Mall, Garh Road, Meerut (Uttar Pradesh). Phone:  0121-4030595. Email: theneerfoundation@gmail.com

Featured Image Credit: Neer Foundation

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