Restore lost sheen of Ranbir Canal

Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat
I am once gain prompted to write this piece after going through the editorial titled ” Save Ranbir Canal” published in Daily Excelsior on March 23rd 2019. In past also I have deliberated upon this issue. Ranbir canal is the lifeline of Jammu’s agriculture particularly in Basmati growing areas of R S Pura and Samba.
This canal has not only the agricultural importance but this is our heritage as well which needs to be preserved and protected. Ranbir canal has a great history which is one of the engineering masterpieces of Dogra rulers of Jammu & Kashmir. This canal gets it water from Chenab which is then supplied to various areas of Jammu including parts of Akhnoor, Samba, Bishnah and R S Pura. The work on this canal began during the time of Maharaja Ranbir Singh who ruled Jammu & Kashmir from 1856 to 1885. When the work on the canal was started around 1873 at Akhnoor , the canal was called Shahi Nehar (Royal Canal). There are many canals named as Shahi canals like we have one in Anantnag area called Shah Kull (Kull means canal). These canals were named after the royal rulers of the time. The present Ranbir canal became operational around the time of Maharaja Pratap Singh after the technical faults in this canal were corrected by famous engineer LalaTej Ram the then Divisional Engineer of Irrigation Department. When the revised estimate of Rs 37 lakhs was prepared and okayed by Maharaja Pratap Singh in 1910, Raisahib Makhan Lal took over as Divisional Engineer and executed the work on this 57 kms long canal . Even after almost 110 years the canal has same water carrying capacity.
Garbage dumping
Unfortunately this Dogra heritage is being used as a garbage dumping site by people right from Akhnoor to R S Pura via Jammu. Few years back I had requested authorities to start a massive sanitation campaign inside and around this canal, but the same has not been done inspite of the fact that funds could have been made available for the same under Swachh Bharat AbhiyanGramin and Urban both. Swachh Bharat Abhiyan was launched on October 2nd 2014 and its first phase will get completed on Oct 2nd 2019 , but ironically not even a single rupee has been used to clean Ranbir Canal. With an aim of clearing irrigation canals of municipal solid waste, Irrigation and Flood Control Department Jammu (I&FC) around 1 ½ years back had planned to launch Swach Nehar Abhiyaan (Clean Canal Campaign) after I brought the matter into notice of the then Chief Engineer Irrigation & Flood Control (I&FC) Jammu Padam Bali. I apprised Mr Bali about the menace of garbage dumping in Ranbir Canal and proposed him the solution as well. Mr Bali without missing any time issued orders and called meeting of all his executive engineers on September 20th 2017. But this officer who was posted as Chief Engineer I&FC Jammu for mere two months, was not even allowed to start the project and was transferred prematurely. The Municipal Corporation Jammu also failed to clean Ranbir canal.
I had suggested the then Chief Engineer I&FC Jammu that in order to restore the lost glory of Ranbir canal it was the duty of department to undertake scientific solid waste management in and around the canal right from Akhnoor to R S Pura via Jammu city. To create more awareness about destruction of Ranbir Canal among people of Jammu in particular, on September 26th 2017 I had written a piece in Daily Excelsior titled Waste free canals in Jammu. Government has been celebrating events like Swachta hi Seva hai etc but authorities like Jammu Municipal Corporation (JMC) never took any initiative to clean Ranbir canal which is completely chocked with municipal solid waste. Initially JMC and I&FC Department must begin its campaign from schools and colleges by creating awareness through Information Education and Communication activities (IEC activities). This would be followed by meeting with community and religious leaders and then tendering out the cleaning work of Ranbir canal but the work should be taken up as per the strict guidelines of Solid Waste Management Rules 2016, not mere de-silting and dredging work.Organizations who are experts in this field need to be given this task. I had suggested Government (I&FC Chief Engineer Jammu) to involve organisations like Help us Green which has been founded by two young entrepreneurs.
Work in Kanpur
Kanpur Flower Cycling Pvt. Ltd is a social enterprise that owns the brand Helpusgreen. Helpus green was founded by two promising friends namely Ankit Aggarwal and Karan Rastogi. I met Ankit during my Acumen fellowship programme in 2017 at Mumbai. We kept meeting and discussing processing of flower waste during our fellowship conferences at Nairobi , Hyderabad, Madurai and Bangalore. Work done by Help us Green impressed me a lot and I even invited Ankit to Jammu so that flower waste that is dumped in Tawi and Ranbir canal could be processed. Ankit who is a very busy man has promised me to work in J&K especially to treat Jammu’s flower waste. Jammu also called the city of temples generates huge quantity of flower waste every day but all this organic waste finally enters Ranbir canal or is dumped in river Tawi. The flower cycling plant in Kanpur preserves the Ganges River by collecting the floral waste from temples and mosques that is dumped in the river. These waste flowers are up-cycled by Help us Green into patented fertilizer (compost) and incense sticks (agarbatti). The compost is exported to Europe as well and is sold on a very high rates there. This activity provides livelihoods to manual scavenger families of the area. Since the Ganges is considered sacred in India, cleaning the river not only provides employment to manual scavengers, but eliminates the discriminatory practices that still bind families to this degrading occupation.
Every religion teaches purity and conservation of water-bodies. Islam has given water a very significant role. It is recognized as a blessing that gives and sustains life, and purifies humankind and the earth.
In Hinduism “Shaucha” is considered as one of the vital elements in leading a Dharmic life. The Hindu scriptures stress the importance of Shaucha. DakshaSmriti (2) states that a person should ever try to maintain Shaucha in whatever work he engages in and without such an adherence to purity, all actions and works becomes fruitless.
Ranbir canal is a sacred water-body as large number of temples are located on its banks and to clean this canal is not only a moral duty of people in Jammu but this is their religious obligation as well. Let J&K Government and people living in this state pledge to keep water-bodies clean as a mark of Jazba e Khair , Goodwill or Sadhbhavna. I appeal Governor Satyapal Malik , his Advisor K K Sharma and Chief Secretary B V R Subramanhyam to formulate a comprehensive programme for restoring lost sheen of Ranbir canal.
(The author is Founder & Chairman of Jammu & Kashmir RTI Movement)