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Pristine rivers before they merge into Ganga suggest pollution crisis is totally manmade

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat* 

After completing my journey of Ganga and Yamuna rivers in the Himalayas, I undertook a journey to see the beauty of river Kali which is known as Mahakali in Nepal and is known as Sarda after Purnagiri hills near Tanakpur in Uttarakhand. We started from Tawaghat, about 30 kilometres from Dharchula town in Pithoragarh district. 
While we wanted to go up to Adi Kailash,  due to heavy rains and landslide it was not possible. So, at Tawaghat, Darma river or Dhauli Ganga (not the same that merges with Alaknanda at Vishnu Prayag) flows into Kali river. Tawaghat was an important market on the way to Kaliash Mansarovar, but the 2013 floods destroyed the entire market and there is not a small trace of it now.
At Dharchula, you can see a city divided by two national identities, India and Nepal, but the culture and civilisation unite them. It shows how culture is a powerful uniting factor. Kali or Mahakali is actually the borderline between India and Nepal in the Uttarakhand region. 
30 kilometers down, Kali meets another river coming from Milam glacier known as Gori Ganga. Some call it Gauri Ganga at Joljibi, which is a historic town for business between India and Nepal. From Joljibi we went to Askot, a beautiful historical town where the Pal dynasty of  Uttarakhand flourished once. A beautiful temple of Mallikarjun Mahadev is at the top which can provide you a glimpse of beautiful peaks of Panchachuli Himalayan range as well as the Kali valley.
From Joljibi the river  move towards Jhulaghat, another important town between India and Nepal. Just ahead of Jhulaghat, about five kilometres, river Chamelia  coming from Nepal flows into Kali. From Jhulaghat the river moves to Pancheshwar where Saryu river flows into Kali, and after some kilometres, the journey of the same river is known as Sarda from Purnagiri hills, just a few kilometres before Tanakpur barrage.
At the border town of Banbasa (bordering with the Mahendranagar district of Nepal), the river passes through some forest zones and reaches Pilibhit and Lakimpurkhiri but from Khatima. A parallel Sarda Canal passes through the beautiful Surai forests followed by Pilibhit Tiger Range. At the border of Sitapur-Lakhimpurkhiri-Bahraich in Uttar Pradesh, Sarda river finally ends its journey by merging into river Ghaghra.
Ghaghra river’s origin too is from the Mansarovar range. It takes a down turn to the beautiful region of Nepal, and is known as Karnali. It passes through the mesmerising landscape near Pitmari and Cheesapani in Nepal and splits into two rivers before entering into India, namely Girua and Kudiyala. Both these rivers pass through dense forests of Kataraniyaghat Tiger range in Bahraich and meets at Girijapuri, where a barrage is made over them, and the river afterwards is called Ghaghra. From there the river passes through Bahraich, Sitapur, and Gonda, and is known as Saryu at Ayodhya, and it moves towards Basi, Azamagarh and finally enters Bihar via Siwan and  merges into river Ganga at a place near Chirand and Revelanj in district Saran. Son river coming from Amarkantak and Kaimur hills too meets Ganga at this point known as Teen Dhara, about 10 kilometres river journey from Chirand.
Heavy sand mining has destroyed the river system. You cannot stand for a minute as the air has thick layers of sand and dust. Every year Ghaghra and Sarda cause huge devastation, change their embankment and millions of hectare of fertile land  turns barren. While in Uttarakhand dams, constructions etc. have made a challenge and we may not see many of these locations which we have shown in my video, I deliberately did not mention anything of that because I want people to understand the crisis is totally manmade. In Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the disaster is being caused by mining as well as rituals when people take a dip in the rivers and wash their sins in there without bothering as to what will happen tomorrow.
We need a people’s conscious decision not to pollute our rivers. At the policy level the government needs to think as to what needs to be done. There is a limit to their commercial usage. Our rivers are our identity and we need to see whether we want to protect our rivers, our heritage and cultural identities or just put them for commercial usage. How long will this commercial exploitation be allowed? What is the limit to exploitation? Of course, these are not parts of the video, which is just a narration of a journey and the conclusions should be drawn by  people themselves. 
*Human rights defender 



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