Save the Suryaputri

Sunny Dua
The beauty of Jammu – City of Temples is that it is located on a small hillock whose slopes have been designed by mother nature in such a way that one good rain not only cleans it’s narrow lanes and drains but the river Tawi on whose banks is located Jammu’s modern version also gets cleaned in just one go.
The geographical features of Jammu are so good that each plateau has enough slopes on its both sides giving water a natural gradient to flow with needed velocity and take along with it all dirt and filth that lay scattered on Jammu roads and stuck in drains besides on river bed of Suryaputri.
What if there are no rains? This face of Jammu is not only worst to explain but not even a site worth having a look at. Hundreds of tons of garbage lay scattered on the bed of river Tawi, waste construction material is dumped here, people litter, waste water drains and city nallahs fall into the only water body passing through Jammu Tawi, washer-men drain filth here, vehicles are washed, bodies cremated and ashes immersed, industrial waste from a couple of sites also flows into it, slaughter houses add to filth, workshops drain their waste here and as if this is not enough people fling flowers and offerings from above the bridge parapets and pray for their own wellbeing.
To add to this are an army of encroachers who don’t hesitate to even construct homes in the river beds but also have gone deep inside the river body to claim land. Then there departments who are hell bent upon reclaiming Tawi land only to squeeze water course and construct mega structures to get into the good books of their superiors. A good number of Jammu people also cultivate river bed or graze their cattle there only to be evacuated during rains especially when river flows to its optimum capacity and even breaches its banks. Several times during past Tawi water has played a spoilsport with low lying areas and religious places constructed on its banks.
Then there is mining mafia continuously ignoring court orders and evading arrests only to extract sand, stones and aggregates (mixture of minerals or rock fragments) not only from auctioned areas but from close to piers of all bridges right from Nagrota to Canal road. These people have made inroads into the river from different areas which give free access to tractor trollies, trucks, small vehicles and ponies that empty waste material into river bed and take away sand and stones at their sweet will. In totality Tawi Bleeds.
Despite so my agencies preying on river Tawi there is a whole lot trying to save this only water body as well. The perennial river not only provides potable water to us but had been responsible for construction of whole Jammu city from the material available on its bed that was once extracted legally and monitored for replenishing resources and recharging. It’s the River Tawi on whose banks are located Jammu University, Mubarak Mandi Heritage Complex, Hari Niwas palace, graveyards, crematoriums, Sainik Sschool, army installations, chief minister’s residence, pumping stations for irrigation canals, Bagh-e-Bahu, stadium, Har-ki-Pauri, mega parks and recreational areas, old ware house, some ons hotels and restaurants besides a couple of illegal and hap-hazardously designed residential ares.
It was very recently that Jammu and Kashmir Police Wives’ Welfare Association (PWWA) joined by few NGOs, JMC and allied agencies launched a 3-Day intensive awareness initiative titled – Clean Tawi, Clean Jammu. Volunteers descended into the river bed and collected filth only to be dumped at proper sites sending a strong message across the length and breadth of state to preserve and protect river bodies. Prior to that Being One NGO, department of environmental sciences, university of Jammu, Tawi Bachao Andolan and several individuals had from time to time made attempts under the banner of “Save Tawi Campaign” but only time when river became visibly clean was after incessant rains.
The successive campaigns including walks, cultural programmes, nukkad nataks, slogan writings, painting competitions, lectures, cleanliness drives, environmental campaigns and high court directions though have served a great purpose in making people aware of their assets yet a lot more is needed to be done to have a clean 3 kilometer river flowing in our neighborhood.
First and foremost we need to stop and divert all city nallahs and drains that flow into river Tawi. Dumping of urban waste and excessive and unabated mining is to be stopped. All roads that give access to tractor trollies, trucks and ponies are to be either blocked or monitored. Only vehicles that are registered with Geology and Mining Department are to be allowed to get into the river bed and that too at the designated sites for extraction of sand and stones. Municipal waste (garbage) and sewage need to be treated at Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) and not into Tawi.
Out of a total 141 Kilometer stretch that river Tawi traverses, 3 Kilometer passes through Jammu city and that’s the worst stretch. We have had enough of campaigns that have made us quite aware of importance of river Tawi and what’s needed now is an action. No vehicles should be allowed to be washed inside the river, glass walls (like in shopping malls) raised on bridge parapets to prevent people from flinging into Tawi and also maintaining aesthetics and most importantly those industries or business houses whose waste flows into the river be henceforth shifted.
Modern abattoirs be constructed to stop animal waste from flowing into city drains and nallahs which ultimately land up in Tawi. Prohibition orders issued to ask people not to dump anything into river and even Ranbir Canal that has also lost its grace. Encroachments stopped for which even if demolition drives are to be launched JMC and JDA must go ahead and practice of squeezing water course stopped immediately giving Tawi chance to replenish its resources. A mega project on the pattern of River Sabarmati is in offing but that’s precisely confined to developing banks and not keeping the river water clean. It’s the people of Jammu who will have to mend their ways, be realistic and act before it’s too late.
In order to make campaigns like Save River Tawi effective, its saviors will have to rope in government agencies to act tough on those who are hell bent upon leaving this beautiful river that has religious significance into a garbage dump. Each and every savior of Tawi needs accolades but like National Council for Rejuvenation, Protection and Management of River Ganga (referred as National Ganga Council), Tawi Rejuvenation and Protection Council (TRPC) should also be put in place.
This body can make attempts to bring all stakeholders together and adopt a holistic approach towards cleaning and rejuvenation ‘Suryaputri’- River Tawi.