Panel submits action plan to restore Varuna, Assi in Varanasi to NGT | Varanasi News

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VARANASI: A high-powered independent monitoring committee has submitted an action plan for the rejuvenation and restoration of Varuna and Assi rivers in Varanasi in compliance with a recent National Green Tribunal (NGT) order.
The NGT’s principal bench comprising Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, Justice Sudhir Agarwal, Justice M. Sathyanarayanan, Justice Brijesh Sethi and expert member Dr. Nagin Nanda had passed the order on June 17 and set up the committee to look into the issue of pollution in rivers Varuna and Assi in Varanasi by discharge of untreated sewage and unauthorized constructions.
The issue was raised by a local advocate, Saurabh Tiwari. The committee included the officials from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB), National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) and district magistrate of Varanasi.
The committee was for the preparation of a report that may cover status on water quality of Assi, Varuna, action taken on diversion and treatment of sewage, water quality of upstream and downstream of confluence of Assi and Varuna to river Ganga, demarcation of flood plain zones of Assi, Varuna and Ganga, in accordance with the River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Protection and Management) Authorities Order, 2016.
Tiwari said that the committee submitted its report on Wednesday. The committee identified the issues and possible gap areas to be addressed in the modified action plan. According to the report, encroachment is a pertinent issue especially for river Assi due to unauthorized constructions and such constructions should be removed/demolished before laying interceptor sewers or putting any kind of interventions in effect.
However, it was recommended that a survey could be conducted to understand the level of existing encroachments in the catchment of both the rivers.
Problem of pollution in rivers Varuna and Assi seemingly pertains more due to sewage rather than industrial pollution. For understanding state-of-the art pollution situation of entire stretch of both the rivers, pollution mapping may be conducted to identify polluting sources such as small-scale industry cluster(s), additional drains as well as help to identify sites for non-conventional treatment (such as constructed wetlands, waste stabilization pond, bio and phytoremediation) that can substitute STPs.
The present flow of river Assi is estimated to be about 100 MLD. The recently constructed STP at Ramanna has a 50 MLD treatment capacity that was based mostly on earlier flow measurements of the Assi river. In the present scenario, this treatment capacity is inadequate. Therefore, proper measures have to be undertaken to deal with the problem of under-treatment.
The pollution of Varuna river water in this stretch is insignificant and doesn’t require any major intervention. The only problem apparent in this stretch is that a significant portion of the origin (a wetland) is under either cultivation/agriculture land, paddy land as well as fallow land that has changed not only the land-use but also the land cover of the area. This wetland also receives run-off from vast agricultural fields and is highly silted. This has resulted in a lack of flow of river from its origin.
The committee recommended that the most suitable intervention is to acquire the cultivated land and convert it back into wetland as well as biodiversity park. Also, there are massive wetlands in the downstream (about 60 km from point of origin) and other wetlands located in the unpolluted stretches of the river, where desilting could be carried up to appropriate depth (original bed level). The desilted material can be used for making natural embankments without disrupting the natural drainage pattern stream. These wetlands receive water from catchments and feed to the river.
It was identified that the Assi river once originated through an outlet at the south-east corner from Kardmeshwar Kund, near Kardmeshwar Mahadev temple. Continued illegal constructions along the river course and encroachment of the river path, obstructed the flow of the river.
This blockage of the river path led to back flow of wastewater into the Kardmeshwar kund that caused pollution of the kund. Therefore, about 10-15 years ago, the locals with the help of administration sealed the outlet of the Kardmeshwar kund that led to change in the origin of river Assi and ultimately affected the flow and pollution status of the river.
The river is trained by passing it through between RCC wall embankments in encroached areas. All along the path of the river, untreated wastewater joins the river indiscriminately increasing the pollution load of the river, however, it is difficult to find out the exact number of inlets that discharge raw sewage and or household wastewater.
It is recommended that the first step, towards the rejuvenation of this stretch of Assi river, should be the removal of the encroachments (wherever required and possible) through coordinated action by state and district administrations.





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