Protection and conservation of Narmada : A strategy

Narmada is not just a river, but it is the external manifestation of religious fervor and faith of the people living on its banks.Hence, it is very important to protect this river and keep it free from pollution and to maintain its level and constant flow . It has got the prominent role in the life of people because of its ancient,spiritual ,social and economic importance ,that is why along with the government and spiritual leaders , society play an equally important role in its conservation

Government has a major role in conservation of the river Narmada by framing stringent regulations , for its protection and government can ensure enforcement of these regulations by making provision of punishment .Voluntary organization can play vital role in creating awareness about these laws and regulations in society .Narmada river has spiritual importance, hence role of spiritual leaders is important to motivate people. People’s participation is most important for conserving the river.

Voluntary and private organisations can play important role to generate awareness for enforcement of these rules. Narmada river ,having religious and spiritual importance, spiritual leaders can play important role in creating awareness for conservation of the river .Role of society is most important for protecting the river

Role of society implies that people participate in making strategy and work plan for protection of the Narmada river and also monitor and evaluate the process with mutual cooperation .This will develop a sense of ownership and responsibility among them. To ensure participation of society in protection of the river, river protection society should be formed in the adjoining areas of river in which local religious groups ,social financial groups ,businessman, peoples leaders, teachers doctors ,health workers and voluntary organisations and members of panchayats/ municipal committee etc, are involved

Main sources of pollution of the river

  • Dirty water/waste materials/chemicals/heavy metals from factories and industries pollute the river and adversely affect the flora and fauna in the river water, also destroying the microorganisms that are responsible for keeping the water pure.
  • High temperature of Industrial effluents, increase the temperature of the river thus, adversely affecting the ecology of the river.

  • Household waste contains heavy metals such as lead, chromium, arsenic mercury etc; water carrying these harmful chemicals when mixed with river water then not only does it effect the flora and fauna of the river,but also effect human body by damaging organs such as kidneys, liver,nerves etc; are causing infections diseases such as Cholera typhoid or even skin diseases.
  • Household waste also contains soaps and detergents consisting of sodium and potassium which damage the human body seriously.Wastewater from household drains out and the drain consequently merges in river polluting it.

  • Uncontrolled use of plastic in daily life, is resulting in production of non biodegradable waste in large quantities.
  • Open defecation near river banks.
  • Use of soap and detergents for bathing in river.
  • Washing clothes utensils and vehicles in river and bathing animal.
  • Disposal of human and animal carcasses.
  • Using riverbed as dumping yard.
  • Sale of fish feed in polythene bags and disposal of those bags in the river.
  • Use of pesticides for catching fish which later enter into human and animal bodies through intake of river water.

  • Immersion of idols made of chemical materials at the time of religious festivals.
  • Throwing away of Pooja materials in the river.
  • • Waste disposal at religious places, 'dharmshalas','ashrams' and 'ghats'.
  • Leaving old clothes and slippers etc at river banks.
  • People show their devotion by throwing coins in river.
  • 'Ashrams' situated very near to the river bed.
  • Practices such as 'mundan' after funerals and 'mundan' ceremony of children.
  • Immersion of ashes in river.
  • Improper disposal of waste by people during large gatherings on occasion of festivals specially ,bathing festivals lead to pollution of water.
  • People gathering on festivals festivals throw away large quantities of waste materials such as polythene ,water bottles, leftovers of 'pooja' materials , leaves 'pattal' and 'dona' etc
  • It was customary to float lamps ('deepdan') in water but now this is done, with plastic lamps which is harmful.
  • Leaving the things they bring with them for performing 'aarti' at banks of Narmada river.

  • Vendors selling worshipping material at the pilgrim places adjoining the river also leave their waste materials in river.
  • Devotees throw away plastic materials in the water.
  • Indiscriminate mining of sand from riverbed has removed its natural filters.

  • Non judicious use of fertilizers pesticides and intensive cropping practices lead to leaching of harmful chemicals in water, which then merge into the river by runoff, this makes the water poisonous.
  • Polluted water causes the microorganisms of soil to destroy and the fertility of soil is depleted, this makes the soil hard and reduces its water holding capacity which in turn results in erosion of soil and silting of the river beds.
  • Excessive use of pesticide in catchment areas leads to pollution of the river

  • Farm animal waste and domestic waste is littered here and there in villages.
  • Agriculture stubbles and waste is burnt.
  • Lack of Agroforestry.
  • Lack of trees on river banks .
  • Removal of bunds from fields.

  • Awareness regarding the following points need to be generated.
  • Industries should be asked to come forward for creating awareness.
  • Executive magistrates should take action at local level.
  • Local bodies such as 'Gram Panchayat', 'Nagar Panchayat', 'Nagar Palika','Nagar Nigam' etc should take action.
  • Open defecation should be totally discouraged. People should be made aware for this. Toilets should be made in each house or community toilets can be made and they can be linked with energy production
  • No religion advocates throwing away dead bodies in rivers. Religious leaders should approach people to create awareness in this regard .
  • Dead animals body should be disposed of scientifically, local Municipal bodies should be equipped for this purpose
  • Boundaries of the rivers should be respected and encroachment should be removed.
  • Plastic bags and bowls ('donas') used for selling fish feed should be prohibited and use of pesticides for catching fish should be discouraged.
  • Near the river banks separate areas should be identified for immersion of idols. Idol should only be made from biodegradable materials, capacity building of local artists should be done for this purpose.
  • Legal initiatives should be taken to to minimize the disposal of garbage and waste material in river water from religious places, ‘dharamshalas’, ‘ashrams’ and ‘ghats’ and proper publicity of these initiative should be done through awareness campaigns.
  • This can be done by taking help of religious gurus who can convince and create awareness among people.
  • Scientific rethinking of practices such as throwing coins in the river to express devotion needs to be done.
  • In an initiative taken up by Mahatma Gandhi ‘Grameen audyogiki Karan Sansthan’ , hair is collected after ‘mundan’ ceremony and used for making a product called ‘Hairamrit’ that is used as tonic for plants .Models such as these should be replicated
  • Separate tanks or ponds should be made for immersion of ashes in the river by the local village 'panchayats' or municipal bodies.
  • At the time of festivals, especially bath festivals temporary toilets can be arranged with the help of social or voluntary organisations and people should be made aware and requested to use these.
  • Large display screens powered by solar energy can be used at places of religious or tourist importance to create awareness, the LED illuminated boards can be used that will shine at night.
  • Burial technique of disposal sewage drains from villages and cities should be practised instead of letting the drains culminate into river water and pollut it.
  • A technique has been developed by Defense Research and Development Establishment (DRDE),Gwalior. for setting up methane generation units in solid waste disposal plants. Such techniques can be used for proper disposal of solid waste in public place and additional revenue can also be generated.
  • Social and voluntary organisations can be approached for separate collection of biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste material can be done.
  • Recent saints should up app appeal to people for not using plastic materials for rituals such as 'deepdan' eco friendly materials such as 'Palash' leaves can be used for this purpose and subsequent cleaning with nets and recycling of waste should be done.
  • Saints and 'pujari' should ask people not to obstruct free flow of the river during 'aarti' ceremony.
  • Vendors selling 'pooja' materials near the banks should not use polythene for plastic materials, eco friendly materials should be replaced instead.
  • Sign should be installed at various places to create awareness.
  • Local magistrates can declare the places as zero polythene zones.
  • Plastic can be totally prohibited in Narmada adjoining districts.
  • Excessive mining of sand should be discouraged.
  • Group discussions underlining the traditional and spiritual importance of Narmada can be organised once in a week by inviting local saints.
  • Voluntary organisations and government departments can disseminate information, regarding the ill effects of excessive use of chemicals and benefits of organic farming,
  • Help of voluntary organisations and government departments can be taken to minimized the use of pesticides and insecticides and chemical in the catchment areas.Public awareness campaigns can be organised and organic farming should be promoted.
  • Monocropping in catchment areas should be discouraged and integrated farming systems including horticulture and food processing, animal husbandry sericulture Methane farming and value addition etc; should be encouraged.
  • Wastage of water should be controlled and advanced irrigation systems such as drip, sprinkler, raingun etc; should be promoted.
  • Less water requiring varieties of crops should be promoted.
  • Rainwater harvesting techniques should should be done to minimise runoff, practices to maximize rainwater infiltration should be promoted.
  • Water budgeting and water policy should be made and applied.
  • Awareness campaign of urban and rural people on importance need and utility of water.
  • Collection of farm and domestic waste in villages and making compost by nadep ,bhunadep and other techniques.
  • Biogas (Methane Gas) and organic compost unit can be set up in each village for disposal of Agricultural waste.
  • A small scale organic pesticide unit can be installed in each 'panchayat'.
  • Village panchayat should organize campaign after the crop season to discourage burning of crop stubbles in fields.
  • In-situ moisture conservation techniques should should be encouraged.
  • Horti and Agroforestry based trees should be planted on fallow lands and field boundaries.
  • Vegetative cover of Narmada river area should be enriched by planting Fruit plants, agroforestry plants, grasses, or medicinal and aromatic plants.
  • Broad leaved trees should be planted near the riverbanks, so that their leaves can be used for ceremonies such as 'deepdan'. These leave can be used for making eco friendly lamps diyas they can also be used for making 'donas', which can replace plastic.
  • A toll free number can be operated in each district which will help devotees coming from another place, to obtain information.
  • Such families which reside near the river areas, and do not have proper clean water facilities for their domestic use and are dependent on the river for their water requiement, should be identified and proper water supply should be provided.
  • Provision for on spot punishment for those who are polluting the river should be made and the local administration should be given the powers to administer it.

The above list is not exhaustive and innovations are can be done as and when required. This conservation and purification strategy can be followed for conservation of Narmada and its other tributaries also

Concept By Umesh Sharma Executive Director MP Jan Abhiyan Parishad