The Yamuna, which passes through Memarpur and Tikola villages in Haryana’s Sonipat district, is only a trickle from a distance, the river is completely dry in some places. Not far from it, large mounds of river sand, recently excavated, lie next to the farm.
Earlier this month, Delhi’s new water minister, Saurabh Bharadwaj, linked the river’s “unprecedented” pre-summer drying up to mining in Haryana. This, he alleged, has led to low water levels in the river at Wazirabad in Delhi, thereby affecting the supply to the national capital.
Bharadwaj also cited Google Earth images of bridges or levees built across the river near these Tajewala mining sites – including one such site in Memarpur – and said the flow of the river is blocked by these structures.
While the water from Haryana reaches Delhi mainly through two channels – the Carrier Line Channel and the Delhi Sub-Branch – some, about 120 cusecs or 60 MGD (million gallons per day), also reaches Delhi by river, according to Delhi. Jal Board of Directors.
To understand the reality on the ground, The Indian Express visited the two villages last week.
In Tikola, officials recently stopped the excavation work of one of the companies operating on the road. When the Indian Express visited the site on Friday, some of the company’s employees were still there, near the rented, heavy machinery that is now sitting. A large pile of sand is lying close to where the workers live, it has been dug out from the seabed and the neighboring land, and it has been stored for sale.
As it flows, the river brings up silt – a real gold for mining companies in the area who sell the minerals for construction purposes. The sand is dangerous, the less dangerous it is, the better the construction, said one of the workers. The sand leaves the site for construction in Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh. While it is sold here at around Rs 10 per cubic foot, the price goes up during transportation.
One of the workers said that there is no water coming from the upper part of the river, and the water seen in the river is dirty, because a lot of dirty water comes from Panipat.
The environmental approval given to the company in Tikola in 2016 confirmed the annual production of 14 lakh tonnes of sand on 40.85 hectares of land, with the leased land lying outside and a section on the river. The clearance also states that mining is not allowed during the rainy months, from July 1 to September 15.
Not far from where the workers live, a bridge of sorts has been built over the river, connecting Uttar Pradesh on one side with Haryana on the other, and allowing a resident of Adarsh Nangla village in UP to cross the river on a two wheeler. on the other hand.
The bridge, made of sand and cement bags to support it, was built about two months ago and is not ready for excavation, said the resident. There are large pipes running down, and the water flows from one side of the structure to the other through these pipes.
The UP person and the workers in one of the companies said that the river remains more or less dry until the rains, when the water level is high.
In a statement issued after Bharadwaj’s allegations, the Haryana government said these pipelines. Sand mining is illegal in the Yamuna and temporary culvert crossings are also planned so that the flow of the river is not disturbed, the reply which of the government.
The question of these temporary bridges is still being considered in the National Green Tribunal (NGT), although the Tribunal recently ordered that permission should not be given for such bridges.
Vikas Kumar, a resident of Sonipat, had sent a petition to the NGT last year alleging that a mining company was involved in illegal mining on the river and was “misguided.” of the river by constructing an illegal bridge over the river Yamuna”. On this, the NGT formed a joint committee in September last year to verify the situation.
In November, an NGT order on the matter raised the question of allowing the construction of such temporary bridges on the river and their environmental impact on the river environment and disturbance or pollution. the normal flow of the river. The Tribunal asked for a copy of the policy made by the Haryana government on the permission of construction of such temporary bridges.
In an order issued on February 23, the NGT said that the participation of the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and the Ministry of Jal Shakti is essential for a proper decision on the questions of involved in the case, and it was requested that the two departments will be the answer.
Acting as a precautionary measure, the Tribunal ordered that no further permission be granted for the construction of any temporary bridge over the Yamuna for the sake of convenience. sand mining and related activities. The matter has been listed for consideration next week.
In January, the Haryana Irrigation and Water Resources Department submitted a report before the NGT which said it had issued a policy by October 2021 which states mining agencies should apply to the department for these structures, and must be destroyed by June 30. .Three such approvals were granted in Sonipat. A meeting chaired by the Chief Minister of Haryana was held in August 2020, where it was decided that mining on the river would require crossing the river and that the Ministry of Works could build structures to required for crossing, said the petition.
The Haryana government’s response to Bharadwaj’s allegations also said: “Haryana is supplying 1,050 cusecs of water to Delhi through CLC and Delhi Sub-Branch canals… pollution-free water in Delhi. This canal water is taken from CLC through twin pipelines, directly to sups at Wazirabad WTP for treatment… Sand mining in Yamuna river is regulated as per policy of haryana government to download only during non-monsoon season… Haryana does not disturb any natural river and provides pollution free canal water in Delhi more than his right.
A sand road leads from Tikola to Memarpur, where another mining company is working, trucks take sand from it. Unlike the one in Tikola, where it is mined from the river, the one in Memarpur mines a lot of sand from the ground, about 142 acres, around the river, according to the owners of the land
In 2015, the company participated in the auction for obtaining a mining contract for nine years. With the necessary clearance, they started digging soon, they said. The stock is stored in the area and sold to consumers at around Rs 10 to Rs 12 per cubic feet. County officials check what is being sold through a bus carried by the seller’s truck, verifying how much it was sold for. It is mined and sold as is, although it is often mixed with Badarpur sand later when it reaches Delhi for construction, said those associated with the company.
Virender Punia, Sonipat Regional Officer, Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB), said that three companies are currently operating in Sonipat. One of the companies in Tikola stopped operations due to the orders of officials of the mining department. For bridges over the river, companies request permission from the Ministry of Irrigation, he said.
The HSPCB will check whether the companies are complying with the conditions of environmental clearance, said the governor, and will leave it to the shipping department to ensure that only solar Companies take sand from specific locations but only at depth.
The HSPCB issued a closure order to a unit operating in Ganaur tehsil of Sonipat on Friday for non-compliance with the conditions of cleaning the environment and for violating the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, and Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution). ) Work.
Environmental clearance has been granted for river mining in the Yamuna, only a depth of three meters is allowed. Those connected with the company in Memarpur said that digging beyond 10 or 12 feet above the river can bring water to the surface.
Himanshu Thakkar of the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People said, “The main issue when it comes to river mining is governance. The mining must be legalized, that means only what is allowed should happen and there should be a reliable system to ensure it. The partner can ensure the legal mining of the local community.”
On the mining of the river that can have an effect on the water under Delhi, he said, “It can have an effect. How much can it affect the places diversity needs to be studied. The sand in the river plays an important role in maintaining the flow of the river and its biodiversity, ensuring the restoration of the soil. stop and obstruct the river by making bridges or dams, it will damage the natural environment. According to the MoEFCC guidelines, the miners cannot disturb the flow
With a drop in the rains in February and through March as in Northwest India, the river in Wazirabad remained at a height of 671.3 ft, lower than the normal of 674.5 ft, as of today So, hit production at the Wazirabad treatment center for almost. three weeks now.
At 10 am on Sunday, the Wazirabad water treatment plant produced 93 MGD (million gallons per day), below its capacity of 134.5 MGD. As temperatures rise and water scarcity is felt in parts of the national capital, the Yamuna is likely to once again be at the center of a heated political debate.