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With Rapid Urbanization, Lucknow Loses 46 Percent of its Water Bodies

According to a survey conducted by the Lucknow Municipal Corporation, there were a total of 964 ponds in the city in 1952. The number declined to 494 in 2006

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lucknow skyline, water bodies
File:Anandi Water Park located by the Sharda Canal on eastern outskirts of Lucknow. Wikimedia Commons

With rapid urbanization changing the skyline of Lucknow, the state capital has also lost 46 per cent of its water bodies. Most of them are also polluted with waste and sewage.

The state government and the Supreme Court have made various interventions to stop instances of land-grabbing and construction over water bodies but the situation remains beyond control.

Officials are unwilling to speak on the issue since encroachment, invariably, has the backing of political leaders. The District Magistrate also did not respond to calls. According to a survey conducted by the Lucknow Municipal Corporation, there were a total of 964 ponds in the city in 1952.

The number declined to 494 in 2006. Land records of the municipal corporation state the city has 964 tanks and ponds, a majority of which are now unidentifiable due to reclamation.

lucknow skyline
File: Lucknow Skyline From Gomti Nagar. Wikimedia Commons

In the Sarojini Nagar area, where 14 water bodies have been encroached upon, Samajwadi Party leader Sharda Pratap Shukla is said to be a “big fish”. Some of his illegally- constructed buildings were demolished but reappeared months later.

“Each time we try to demolish the encroachments, we face tremendous political pressure and the matter is laid to rest,” said an official of the Lucknow Development Authority (LDA) who did not wish to be identified.

In 2006, the Supreme Court had said that the protection of natural lakes and ponds honours the most basic fundamental right – the right to life – which is guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution. But Lucknow’s official records reveal a grim picture.

Ponds and pools, which act as a sponge and thermo-regulators, help in the accumulation of rainwater and enhance the groundwater level in the area. But water bodies in Lucknow’s core urban area have become largely extinct. This has made it vulnerable to severe flooding in the future. The state capital has already reported four major flood events in the past decade.

The situation of the Gomti River is at its worst today. The Gomti is a groundwater-fed river and is replenished by its various tributaries. According to the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB), the flow of the Gomti has reduced by 35 to 40 per cent over the years. At some points, one can easily cross the river on foot since the water is only waist deep.

lucknow, water bodies
Experts say that the situation is getting worse by the day with about 300 water bodies around Lucknow currently undergoing plotting for construction. Wikimedia Commons

The river is at its filthiest along the 13-km stretch in Lucknow and has been declared as the most polluted river stretch in the country by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). Increased biotic pressure, reduced ecological flow, deterioration of major tributaries, siltation and encroachment of the river’s catchment area has left the river dry and filled with sewage and sludge.

Ashok Shankaram, an environment activist from the city, filed a petition against the encroachment of 37 water bodies in the Allahabad High Court in 2014 and the court sought answers from the LDA and the municipal corporation, but received only an elementary reply.

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The reply, given in 2015, did not contain any information about concrete steps taken against land-grabbing. Another PIL in this regard was filed in the high court last week. Experts say that the situation is getting worse by the day with about 300 water bodies around Lucknow currently undergoing plotting for construction.

Sources say that Uttar Pradesh has lost more than one lakh water bodies (tanks, ponds, lakes and wells) to the hands of illegal encroachment. The Yogi Adityanath government has not gone beyond providing lip service to the issue and no specific action has been taken to save water bodies from the clutches of land- grabbers. (IANS)

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Survey: Gomti River Dips to Dangerous Levels, Can No Longer Sustain Aquatic Life

The river's toxicity is so high in places, like Kudiya Ghat, that bubbles are created by emission of harmful gases like methane on the surface

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gomti
The river's toxicity is so high in places, like Kudiya Ghat, that bubbles are created by emission of harmful gases like methane on the surface. Wikimedia Commons

The carpet of water hyacinth over the Gomti River in Lucknow may present a bewitching sight but it also hides the threat to aquatic life that lies in the waters below. A survey carried out by a team of environmentalists has found that the dissolved oxygen (DO) in the Gomti river has dipped to dangerous levels and can no longer sustain aquatic life.

The DO level should be at least 8.5 mg/litre to make river water fit for human consumption while a drop below 5 mg /litre makes it unfit for flora and fauna. The DO level of Gomti river water has gone down to 0.5 mg/litre.

According to the study conducted by Professor Venkatesh Dutta and his team, this explains why only eight of the 51 species of fishes are left in the river. Barring water hyacinth, no other plant species have survived the onslaught of pollution.

Prof Dutta is an Environmental Management Specialist with specialization in Water Resources Management. His main research interests involve water quality assessment, groundwater contamination and eco-hydrology.

gomti river
This time, the problem has been compounded by the fact that 23 of the 26 tributaries of Gomti are running dry. Wikimedia Commons

His findings are similar to those of the Uttar Pradesh Solid Waste Management and Monitoring Committee, a panel constituted by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), which on Monday, advised people against bathing or even boating in Gomti.

“The DO level was 5 mg/litre only between Ghaila and Gaughat in the upstream. Thereafter, the water was found to be increasingly poor in quality due to untreated discharge from sewers and drains. The stretch near Shaheed Smarak, Shani Mandir Ghat and Kudiya Ghat is the most polluted, with the DO level being as low as 0.6 mg/litre, 0.5 mg/litre and 0.8 mg/litre, respectively,” said Dutta.

The river’s toxicity is so high in places, like Kudiya Ghat, that bubbles are created by emission of harmful gases like methane on the surface. According to the study, of 675 million litres per day (MLD) of sewage produced in Lucknow, only 396 MLD is treated in treatment plants while the rest flows into the river through 33 big sewers.

As many as 180 small drains also discharge factory effluents and solid waste into the river. The situation is worse every summer when the water level is low. This time, the problem has been compounded by the fact that 23 of the 26 tributaries of Gomti are running dry.

gomti river
The concrete riverfront has further deteriorated the water quality as it has done away with the natural clay and mud banks that acted like filters. Wikimedia Commons

At present, the water level in the river is around 351.6 feet against a normal of 356 feet. The concrete riverfront has further deteriorated the water quality as it has done away with the natural clay and mud banks that acted like filters.

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Professor Dhruvsen Singh of the geology department in the Lucknow University corroborated the study said: “Domestic and industrial wastes are polluting the river. They are also depositing fine sediments that are contaminated. Gomti is a groundwater-fed river and it is not being able to recharge itself.”

Prof Singh said the solutions included treating sewage and effluents before discharge, dredging and removal of silt from the riverbed, maintaining the flow through recharge pits and making tributaries pollution-free so that they keep adding fresh water to the river. Gomti originates from the Gomat Taal in Pilibhit and travels through 960 kilometers to merge into the Ganga near Saidpur in Varanasi. (IANS)