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As Narmada flows "backwards", sea water intrudes 72 km in the river, destroying farms, fish catch: Petition to NGT

Counterview Desk
“Failure” to maintain what is called “environmental flow” in the downstream of Narmada river is leading a major ecological disaster in South Gujarat, with salinity ingress affecting the river till about 72 km upstream of mouth of the river in Gulf of Khambhat. A petition filed with the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has estimated that the failure has resulted in tidal effects being felt 100 km upstream.
Pointing out that “reduced flows in Narmada have caused salinity” along the Narmada river, destroying agricultural lands, the petition, filed Jayesh Rathi of the Narmada Pradushan Nivaran Samiti, a local environmental group, and the Bharuch Citizens’ Council, has said that “Narmada River at present literally flows backwards during the tides in the dry season, transferring salt and pollution from industries in Bharuch upstream.”
Citing studies, the petition says, biologists, fisheries experts and hydro-ecologists have noted “serious impact of the reduction in the freshwater flow in the downstream of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Dam”, situated about 110 km from the Narmada river’s mouth. It has already led to hydro-ecology of the Narmada Estuary and reduced the fish catch.
“Reduced or no freshwater flow from the impounded structure, the SSD built on the Narmada system in Gujarat has caused detrimental and irreversible damage to the Narmada estuary, severely damaging the livelihoods of thousands of fisher folk families directly dependent on fish resources of the river ecosystem.”, it says.
Citing a report prepared by the Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute (CIFRI), Barrackpore, Kolkata, the petition says, the study identifies the essence of immediate remedial measure for the emerging environmental scenario in terms of making provision for the required “environmental flows” and zero effluents discharge for ensuring the ecological integrity in the downstream.
The petition says, there is “consistent negligence” to ensure minimum downstream flow from the Sardar Sarovar Dam, led to permanent and detrimental changes in the downstream hydro-ecology leading to habitat destruction, increased soil salinity in the agricultural lands, groundwater contamination and changes in the overall environment.
It recalls, “During the summer of 2016, the water flow in the downstream of Narmada in the Bharuch district reduced to extreme minimum, raising concern and alarm among all the stakeholders directly dependent on the ecological flow of the river”, the study says, adding, “ The same in the current year has aggravated to a phenomenal level unheard of.”
Pointing out that chemical, pharmaceutical, dye, dye intermediaries, petro products and fertilizer industries contribute “significantly” towards water pollution, the petition says, all of this
“concentrated around the Narmada estuary in the Bharuch district. “The release of untreated effluents into the estuary has had severe detrimental impacts on the hydro-ecology of the area”, it adds.
“Partially treated or untreated toxic industrial and chemical effluents from other industrial zones along the estuary, especially from Ankleshwar, Jhagadia and Panoli Industrial estates are being dumped into the Narmada estuarine area”, the petition alleges.
This, the petition says, has happened despite the fact “all efforts have been made to bring the severe deterioration of downstream environment of the Narmada Basin to the notice of the authorities”. It adds, “No action has been taken to address the issues by ensuring additional flows.”
“In view of these facts”, the petition insists, “The NGT should direct the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) and the “ministry of water resources and the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Dam Ltd to make urgent provision for the release of 1500 cusecs from the Sardar Sarover dam for downstream purpose, on a daily basis”, the petition says.
At the same time, it wants “an independent assessment by expert body/committee to assess the environment flow required in the Narmada river in different seasons to ensure that the river continues to provide the environmental, social, economic, livelihood and cultural services in the downstream of SSD.”

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