Estimated Initial Cost : Rs. 5, 00, 000 , USD Equvivalent:
A project to raise awareness about and put a stop to the illegal sand mining at the bed and banks of the river Ramganga in Uttarakhand. The real estate boom in Uttarakhand has fuelled the rise of sand mining mafia, and led to destruction of the fragile ecosystem and even the Uttarakhand floods of 2016 which led to mass death and destruction.
The Ramganga river is the primary source of water for the people and villages of the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand. It is the only constant source of water for agriculture – the primary source of livelihood and means of survival of the local inhabitants. Not only people, it is the only constant source of water for the wild animals residing in a large part of the Corbett National Park, including tigers and wild elephants – that tourists from all over the world come to see. Without the Ramganga river, one cannot imagine survival of an ecosystem in 30,641 square kilometres of harsh and inaccessible mountainous terrain.
Ramganga West or the Ramganga as it is popularly called, is one of two main rivers that drain the Kumaon region of the Himalayas; the other important river being the Kosi. The Ramganga originates as a narrow stream from Doodhatoli ranges at an altitude of 800-900 metres in the district of Pauri Garhwal, Uttarakhand, then flows south west from the Kumaon Himalayas passing through the Corbett National Park near Ramnagar (Nainital district) from where it descends upon the plains of Uttar Pradesh. Important towns of Uttar Pradesh such as Moradabad, Bareilly, Badaun, Shahjahanpur and Hardoi lie on the banks of the Ramganga and have developed and flourished on its banks over centuries. The Ramganga eventually confluences with the Ganga near Kannauj in Fatehgarh district of Uttar Pradesh.
The story of social, environmental and economic importance of the Ramganga begins much before its descent into the plains of Uttar Pradesh. For centuries, the locals of the Kumaon region have used the resources of this river – its water, silt, pebbles and boulders to build their homes and villages in a sustainable manner, always respectful of the river. These resources have greatly enabled the modern development of the region, be it construction of roads, dams, schools, hospitals etc. However, since the separation of Uttarakhand from Uttar Pradesh in 2000 and its constitution into a separate state, it has witnessed a real estate boom, with spiralling demand and supply of infrastructure and real estate development, triggered by the cash flow from tourism. This real estate boom has led to the indiscriminate mining of river beds for construction material, altering the fragile Himalayan environment. This human activity has exacerbated the effects of the flash floods that badly affected, among others, the Ramganga valley.
A working paper of the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations published in 2008 on the economy of the state indicates that the shortage of dwelling units to meet the ever-increasing numbers of tourists visiting the state led to the mushrooming of illegal structures, some of which were constructed right on the river banks at the risk of being swept away by seasonal flash floods.
This usurpation of natural resources in the Ramganga valley has led to the killing of flora, fauna and marine life. The wide deep holes on its river bed appear like pounds of flesh of a living person – crying for help. The Ramganga’s water level has receded like never before. One can see the deep holes on its river bed, drying out the river. In areas where the Ramganga was wide, fast and clean gurgling water; only a feeble stream remains. It has become a skeleton of itself. If this abusive madness of the Ramganga is not stopped right now, we will lose the river forever – and with it a forests, flora, wildlife, dissertation of human settlement and the Kumaoni culture, as we know it.
A public interest litigation filed in the Uttarakhand High Court by a Roorkee resident, Dinesh Bhardwaj, indicates the scant regard for the notification passed by the Uttarakhand government in 2000, prohibiting any construction within 200 metres of a riverbank. The High Court ordered the State government to demolish all structures along the banks of the State’s rivers. However, no action was taken towards this end and illegal constructions and encroachments encourage further mining of the river valleys. The world witnessed the fallout of the State government’s inaction in this regard during the devastating floods and landslides which ravaged Uttarakhand in 2013 leading to the death of thousands and injury and displacement of thousands more.
We urgently need to permanently stop the illegal sand mining in this abusive and unsustainable manner. Secondly, we need to ensure that the laws put in place to check the use the resources of the river valley are enforced strictly and where required, given more teeth in a manner and pace that is respectful of the river and the life it nurtures.
We know that we will be able to bring this change but we require your help. You could help us with your time or financial resources. Write to us if you’d like to work with us on this project and/ or you could pay for our services in relation to this project through the link on our website.
Estimated Initial Cost: Rs. 5, 00, 000; USD Equivalent: