Special panel suggests encouraging local farmers to plant trees, vegetables and flowers along the river bank

Floodplains giving way to illegal constructions, sewage flowing into the river and groundwater along the banks being over-exploited are a daily reality along the 49-km-long stretch of the Hindon in Gautam Budh Nagar district.

The river, which joins the Yamuna near Tilwara in the district, gets polluted as it travels from Saharanpur, with industrial effluent, residue from stone crushing units and sewage.

Fresh approach

While the Uttar Pradesh government had initiated a Hindon Rejuvenation Project earlier this year, authorities in Noida are looking beyond the river itself, hoping that if the banks are revived the water quality would improve on its own.

A special committee set up for the purpose has formulated a plan, which it sent to the State government this week, to not only rid the riverbank of the illegal constructions, but to get local farmers to contribute to the revival.

The committee, which is headed by District Magistrate N.P. Singh and includes environmentalists, has proposed ‘social forestry’ as one of the measures.

There are about 100 acres of gram sabha or pasture land available for plantation along the river that is currently lying barren, said Mr. Singh.

“The farmers don’t perceive this land as useful. Our aim is to help them form a society and plant certain trees, vegetables and flowers that can be financially viable. The all-round development of the river bank is the main goal,” said Mr. Singh.

The trees would help in securing the groundwater table, and the vegetables and flowers grown can be sold with the help of the district authorities.

Mr. Singh said the authorities would help with subsidies and marketing of the produce, which would be grown in an organic manner.

The produce could carry the label of “Hindon (Harnandi in Hindi) vegetables or flowers,” said Mr. Singh.

Another element of the proposal is reviving ponds in the vicinity of the Hindon.

Out of 36 main ponds, 20 have been revived in the past few months. Admitting that two ponds were “partially encroached upon”, Mr. Singh said that legal notices had been issued.

For activists, however, there is a worry that this plan may never take off.

Vikrant Tongad, a water conservationist who is also a part of the committee, said the plan was well-intentioned but its implementation would be key.

“It doesn’t take rocket science. There is large-scale encroachment by builders on the floodplains, both untreated and treated sewage flows into the river and the illegal homes along the banks are extracting groundwater. We need to put an end to this,” said Mr. Tongad.

The committee’s proposal admits to these issues. “Ending the interference of builders in this area,” is one of the goals of the plan. How far the committee can achieve this remains to be seen.