Encroachment, concretisation, pollution killing Mandakini river near Chitrakoot

Political leaders abetting the Mandakini’s death by building hotels along its banks in Chitrakoot

By Anil Tiwari
Published: Monday 01 November 2021
Waste water flowing into the Mandakini river. Photo: Anil Tiwari
Waste water flowing into the Mandakini river. Photo: Anil Tiwari Waste water flowing into the Mandakini river. Photo: Anil Tiwari

Encroachment, concretisation and pollution are killing the Mandakini, a tributary of the Yamuna that flows near Chitrakoot town in Uttar Pradesh.

The political leadership in both Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh are abetting the death of the river rather than prevent it by building hotels and lodges on its banks.

The Mandakini starts in Madhya Pradesh’s Satna district, some 24 kilometres from Chitrakoot, associated with the story of Hindu deity, Ram. 

It flows into the Yamuna in Uttar Pradesh’s Karwi tehsil in Chitrakoot district. The river flows through Sati Anusuiya, a perennial trough where many small and big springs feed into it.

The river is the lifeline of Chitrakoot and the surrounding area, with almost 70 per cent of Chitrakoot residents relying on the river for drinking and household purposes.

Chitrakoot is famous for its association with the Hindu epic, the Ramyana. Hundreds of people visit the town on full moon, new moon and Diwali nights and bathe in the river.

But Chitrakoot’s religious importance has, in a way, sounded the death knell of the Mandakini.

Encroachment, concretisation

Many hotels and temples have been built near the river’s catchment, which is obstructing its recharge.

Illegal hotels being built in Chitrakoot. Photo: Anil TiwariIllegal hotels being built in Chitrakoot. Photo: Anil Tiwari

Nityanand Mishra, a lawyer and environmental activist, had petitioned the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in 2014 to stop the illegal encroachment. The NGT had banned all kinds of construction within 100 metres of the river after this.

However, many hotels were then built near Bharat Ghat, which is near the spot where a host of underground springs recharge the river. Some of these structures are only 30 metres from the river’s bank.

In August this year, the NGT ordered the Satna administration to demarcate the area between the Mandakini and Paisuni rivers where hotels were being constructed illegally. However, no action has been taken so far.

Mishra said:

Even after the NGT order, the Chitrakoot administration has failed to stop these illegal constructions which are killing the Mandakini river.

He added: “Earlier, there were 30-40 illegal constructions near the Bharat Ghat and its vicinity. After the NGT order came into force, this number reduced to 10-15. But at present, there are 40-50 illegal constructions near the banks of the river.”

A government official said on the condition of anonymity:

The local government is unable to prevent illegal construction because of political pressure from government leaders. Many illegal hotels and other construction are owned by political leaders.

Ram Vishnu Das, the founder of the Kamadgiri Temple Trust, said the concretisation of the river’s embankment in Uttar Pradesh had obstructed its natural recharge points.

The water level is declining because of this. “The Mandakini river had 100 small springs near Ansuiya 40 years ago. Now, they are blocked,” he said.

Abhimanyu Singh, a river activist based in Chitrakoot, said a temple near the Anusuiya Ashram on the Mandakini river had been renovated recently. “Lots of concrete was poured along the bank of the river to enhance the beauty of the temple. These actions by the authorities are killing the river,” he said.

Singh added that the government needed to remove all concrete constructions from the charging points of the river to maintain its level. Mishra said he would again approach the NGT, demanding contempt against the city administration as the order of the court had not been followed.

Pollution in the Mandakini

The Union Ministry of Jal Shakti (Water Resources) published a list of the 22 most polluted rivers in Madhya Pradesh in February 2020. The Mandakini has been identified as one of Madhya Pradesh’s most contaminated rivers.

The action plan report by the Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board released in 2019 said:

The number of drains carrying the wastewater of the town joining the river at various points is increasing the pollution load of the river and altering the water quality.

The current estimated sewage generation in the catchment of the river is about 5 million litres per day (MLD) based on population trends. It is expected that sewage generation will reach 5.5 MLD by 2030.

A sewage treatment plant has been built near Bharat Ghat, but it is not yet functional.

Nityanand Mishra said:

The construction of a water treatment plant began many years ago. Due to a lack of enthusiasm by the local administration, the project has not yet begun despite the government spending crores on it. All the polluted household water is dumped in the Mandakini. The river is becoming more and more polluted every day.

Sadhana Chaurasia, who teaches at the Chitrakoot University, has conducted research on the Mandakini’s pollution. She found the water of the Mandakini to be extremely contaminated at all the study stations and unfit for use in irrigation, consumption and domestic purposes.

Abhimanyu Singh said many tourists threw food waste, polythene bags and other garbage directly into the river, which was the main cause of river pollution.

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