Dying Devika in Udhampur to get fresh lease of life

Avtar Bhat
JAMMU, Aug 11: The dying Devika in Udhampur town will get a fresh lease of life as Government has proposed to formulate a Rs 60 core project for the rejuvenation of the river under the National River Conservation Plan (NRCP).
The action by the State Government was taken following a letter written by Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to State Government suggesting taking up of urgent necessary action for pollution abetment of Devika. It also asked the State Government to prepare a detailed project report of the river for sewerage and sewage works as per the existing National River Conservation Plan (NRCP) guidelines of the Ministry.
According to authoritative sources, the district administration of Udhampur has already constituted a Committee in this regard under the name Devika Rejuvenation Committee (DRC) which is headed by Deputy Commissioner Udhampur, Neeraj Kumar as its chairman.
Under the Devika Rejuvenation plan, a sewerage treatment plant will be established for Udhampur district for diversion of entire sewerage water into it which is presently flowing into the sacred Devika river and has converted it into a drainage nallah. The Government has identified 10 kanals of land for the same. The project will be broad based and its DPR will be prepared on a prospective plan not only keeping in view the existing population of the town but also to cater to the needs of the people for next four decades, sources added.
The river, which has lot of religious significance and for the Hindus of the State, it has the same significance which the Ganga has for the Hindus of the entire country, sources said. But the river has been reduced to a drainage nullah at present as entire sewerage and sewage water of Udhampur town including waste of hospitals and hotels flows through it, sources added.
They said it has been a cause of concern for the environmentalists of the State who also raised the issue  many times demanding restoring the sanctity of the sacred river.
A meeting of the concerned departments including Urban Environmental Engineering Department, Irrigation and Flood Control Department, Pollution Control and Forest Department and Udhampur Municipal Committee (UMC) was held in the town today under the chairmanship of DC in which the rejuvenation of Devika Project was discussed threadbare.
The proposal will be submitted to Union Environment Ministry for funding, sources said. Conforming this the DC Udhampur, Neeraj Kumar told Excelsior that an extensive project report has been framed for rejuvenation of the Devika. He said the conservation of the river is not possible without giving a proper treatment to the sewerage water of the town which flows into the sacred Devika.
It may be recalled that the Union Minister in PMO, Dr Jitendra Singh was instrumental in rejuvenation of Devika at Udhampur keeping in view its religious sanctity. Soon after his election as MP from Kathua -Doda Lok Sabha seat, he took up this issue with Union Environment and Forest Ministry. Following his pursuance a team of experts was deputed by the Union Environment Ministry to Udhampur for complete survey of the river including sampling and soil testing etc.
The experts’ team later submitted its report to the concerned Ministry. After the survey by the team, the Union Environment and Forest Ministry has sent a letter to the Principal Secretary Housing and Urban Development with certain suggestions for conservation of Devika on the basis of the report submitted by its team.
As per this letter of the Union Forest and Environment Ministry it pointed out that there is no sewerage system and sewerage treatment facility in Udhampur town and the existing system of sewerage management in the town is in the form of septic tanks, soakage pits and direct discharge in the various drains from individual households.
The letter further said the overflow from septic tanks is also being discharged into various drains which finally flow into Devika. There are approximately 16 drains which are currently being discharged into Devika and contribute in its pollution to optimum level, the letter added.
It stressed that keeping the river pollution free the practice of discharging untreated sewerage into the river be immediately stopped and drains, nallahs discharge be tapped.
The Union Environment Ministry also suggested augmentation of flow in the river by review of diversion of water and removal of sediments , removing garbage from Devika in the stretches of Udhampur along with some dredging depending on the situation, afforestation along with water shed management programme be undertaken in the catchment of Devika river to enhance water enrichment in the catchment area. Besides, a comprehensive proposal be prepared by Udhampur Municipal Committee for sewerage and solid waste management in the drainage area of river Devika, It added.
The letter stressed that all the drains should be tapped in the time bound manner and diverted to sewage treatment facility and treated drainage water should be discharged downstream of MH road bridge. It further said that  a comprehensive proposal based on the National River Conservation Pan (NRCP) guidelines be submitted to the National River Conservation Department (NRCD) through State Government for financial assistance under NRCP.
Moreover it suggested that UMC should take up necessary steps for collection of entire municipal solid waste generated and its treatment processing preferably through waste to energy route like RDF for its ultimate disposal/ use in cement kiln which already exist in the State.
The letter also stressed that for total conservation of Devika and preserving ecology of the Udhampur town the dumping of solid waste should be done in a scientific manner adhering to MSW rules so that the run off does not pollute the river Devika till the plant is commissioned. In addition to this all the hotels and hospitals in the watershed of river Devika should have proper ETP for the treatment  of waste water and State Pollution Control Board should ensure compliance of consent conditions by all the hotels and hospitals and perform regular monitoring of river Devika.
The Union Environment Ministry also suggested strict imposition of ban on use of plastic carry bags as per provisions of the J&K Non Biodegradable Material Management Handling and Disposal Act 2007.