The Dying Devika

Anil Paba
There are countless people in the region who pray to the Devika as  mother Goddess and elder sister of Ganga. It is believed that having a bath in this River not only purifies human body but also the soul. A tributary Doodh Ganga joins Devika at historical Aapshambu temple, Udhampur named as ‘Sangam’ a replica of  of Paryag at Allahabad according to the faith of Hindus. The real issue is will the Devika  survive…? after the unprecedented ecological and cultural destruction caused  by a series of unauthorized construction and disposal of municipal wastes, other solid wastes and untreated sewage and garbage directly  into these water bodies especially sacred Devika River Udhampur and River Tawi.
Importance  Of Holy Devika
The Holy Devika rivulet having about 58 hect. catchment area, passes through the  Udhampur town has on its banks the complex of temples..
The Devika River is sacred to humanity as a fountain head of the oldest civilization and cultural heritage of Jammu and Kashmir. It is also the symbol of faith  for thousands of its citizens since time immemorial.
The peculiarity of this river is that it flows subterranean from SudhMahadev to Utterbehni.  Devika river has a very  old history and had been well described in our ancient scriptures. As it is said- there is divine power in Holy Devika that the ASTHIS put in water of Holy Devika get dissolved within two days. It is considered more sacred than Ganga. All the sins vanish, by taking single bath in its water. There are number of temples, water bowalies etc. in the Devika Temple Comlex. The river has social economic manifestation  as it not only generates lot of employment opportunities for the local people especially during festivals but also benefits people in performing last rites of the mortal remains of their loved ones. People take bath in the  bowalies  on the occasion  of  Baisakhi, Solar eclipse, Lunar eclipse, Amabasya, Chaitra Choudish Mela etc. every year. It is submitted that such is the sancity attached to this River that Lord Krishna is said to have told Yudhishter that when River Ganga gets burdened with the sins of evil doers then river Ganga comes to have a bath in Devika river. It is in this manner river Ganga gets purified.
Expansion of Udhampur town
Udhampur town like all other towns of the State is expanding in all directions. The expansion has particularly been accelerated due to the location of headquarter of Northern Command of Indian Army. This town is also the district Head Quarter  of Udhampur district. Being a centrally located place for some adjoining towns such as Ramnagar, Kishanpur, Ladan, Pancheri, Kud , Sudhmahadev, chenani etc. people started settling here resulting in increase of population of the town and consequently economic activities increased manifold.  Such is the impact of expansion of this town that Holy Devika and its tributary Doodh Ganga which used to be the western Limit of the town now is centrally located.
Pollution of River Devika and its Tributary
Since from the last two decades holy river lost its purity because of excessive pollution and thereby turn it into a small stream full of garbage and foul smell.
River Devika   receives waste water from the adjoining area of the Town namely Housing Colony, Shiv Nagar, Indra Nagar, Adarsh Colony, Chabutra Bazar, Old Bus Stand, T.B. Hospital, waste from Military Hospital (Human Wastes), Mohalla M.H.road, Pollution of Police Line area. People of these areas have opened   their sewerage pipes, drain outlets, latrine drains, dirty water outlets directly into the river. Besides  toilets and other wastes from various schools, big hotels on the encroached Devika Lands have   been allowed to pour the dirty water into the Holy river.
Moreover, the Municipal Authorities are dumping garbage and night soil on the either side of the river Devika and all these have been objected  to   by the locals of Udhampur which is well within the knowledge of the District Administration and Municipal Authorities but till date nothing has been done by the authorities to curb the same.  Besides  Military Hospital and Army Command Area’s contribution of water also finds its way into Holy Devika.
Survey, Recommendations and Necessity
Installation of various water treatment plants on River Devika and its tributary has become a necessary, but these should be recommendations by various boards and agencies more particularly the recommendations made by State Pollution Control Board. A preliminary detailed project report for development of Holy Devika temple complex including the pollution control was  prepared with the help of  the Infra-Structure Development Consultants, Panchkula. The scope of the envisaged project was pollution control of Holy Devika Complex and construction of other allied infra-structure requirement that is installation of treatment plants. But due to paucity of funds and huge recurring expenditure it was felt that implementation of the said scheme would not be possible in near future. It is unfortunate, that District Administration and Municipal Authority  Udhampur instead of taking appropriate steps for protection of Devika and its 58 hectare area of its land from encroachment and its prevention from pollution has misused the public money to the tune of Rs.09 crores which was spent for the construction of Protection Walls on either side of Holy River Devika  which in turn led to the continuous process of encroachments of Devika land by the land mafia in connivance with the Revenue Department of District Administration.
Pollution of the Holy River Devika and its tributary Doodh Ganga is  the major issues for which the author and locals of the area are striving for the last more than 25 years and the issue of River Devika has already been projected our political Pundits particularly during the time of elections either Assembly or Parliamentary. Also during of Kargil War when the former Prime Minister of India  Atal Bihari Vajpayee Ji visited Udhampur town, a memorandum regarding Protection and Prevention of River Devika from pollution and encroachment was presented by the then  MLA to the PM. The former Prime Minister  Atal Bihari Vajpayee Ji had assured  that  requisite steps will be taken to protect it.
Also during the recently held  Assembly Elections 2014 when our present Prime Minister Narendra Modi Ji visited Udhampur during election campaign he reiterated  the same thing by assuring the people of Udhampur that  every possible step for protection and prevention of River Devika and its tributary Doodh Ganga from pollution and encroachment on the same analogy of River Ganga will be taken. Due to the apathy of politicians and administration the level of pollution in the river has been on the rise with the passage of every day.
The Deputy Commissioner as well as Executive officer Municipal committee, Udhampur with an intention to save their skin and gain public sympathy over sanitation of Holy Devika have issued an order directing the locals not to put their septic outlets into the sacred river, but there is no implementation of the order in letter and spirit.
Time and again the samples collected and analyzed by the various agencies including State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) Jammu and submitting its report to the district administration warned them  that almost all the parameters are against permissible limit which have been assigned for the categorization of Rivers under designated best use.
The issue of Water Resources Management has been  projected and brought to the notices of the authorities at Udhampur as well as State authorities but no action has been taken till date. But on the other side the authorities are shying away from taking any action or steps. The authorities should declare it  the ” No Construction Zone”, whether residential or commercial, upto 50 meters  from both the banks of River Devika or its tributaries like Doodh Ganga depending on gradation and location.
Otherwise, the day is not far in the  future when the issue of River Devika will ceases with the extinctions of the Holy River Devika and its tributary Doodh Ganga and the name of this sacred River Devika will be history for our coming generation only  because of the lapses on part of the district as well as the State administration just like the extinction of other rivers of religious importance in India like Holy River Saraswati.