Interview

Reviving Tamsa: A Collective Effort of People & the Govt

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Anuj Kumar Jha

The river Tamsa, known to be holy as Lord Rama spent his first night while in exile for fourteen years on its banks, was in a dire condition that called for the need for its revival. To rejuvenate the holy river, Anuj Kumar Jha, Collector and District Magistrate of Ayodhya put in immense efforts. Discussing on the path to reviving Tamsa, Jha interacted with Arpit Gupta of Elets News Network (ENN) in an exclusive interview for the eGov magazine.      

Please give a brief about the river Tamsa and why there was a need for its revival? What are the parts of Ayodhya, the river covers? 

Tamsa river flows through 10 blocks and 77 gram panchayats of Ayodhya. The total length through the district is 151 km. Tamsa, through the course of time, has been polluted by various means and was in a dire condition. The river channel was encroached completely and disappeared 25 km near the origin. This called for the need to carry out a rejuvenation project to revive the river. A minimum channel width of 20 m was ensured by removing encroachment. Hence, the rejuvenation project was taken up by the district authorities with support from the local community. 

About Tamsa, it is believed that it is that very holy river on the banks of which Lord Rama spent his first night while going on his 14 years of exile.

How was the Tamsa revival project implemented and what were the strategies adopted?

Prior to the restoration process of the river, there was complete encroachment in 25 km wherein houses were built, and farming was being done. Also, in the rest of the river length, the channel was blocked and reduced due to silt and encroachment. 

The restoration process started simultaneously in all the 10 blocks. The river bed was de-silted and depth was increased by 1.5-2 meters. Various works that have been on this Tamsa Rejuvenation Project is a way reviving the river as due to encroachment and silting the whole River channel was blocked. The district administration took up the challenge of the revival of Tamsa river.

There was a well-planned strategy that was developed to carry out the rejuvenation project successfully. The plan was developed under the leadership of Chief Development Officer (CDO) along with technical support from the Irrigation and Revenue department.

    • Chalking of the whole river channel using revenue maps and visual inspections by Technical Assistants, Junior Engineers and Assistant Engineers was done. The team was headed by Executive Engineer (Irrigation) and Executive Engineer (Flood).
    • Identification of the encroachments on the river channel was conducted.
    • A detailed project report (DPR) was prepared and estimates for different sections by NREGA team with technical assistance from the Irrigation department were marked.
    • The next was desilting and widening of the channel through funds from NREGA and State Finance Commission.
    • The work to link the stormwater drains to Tamsa was carried.
    • For the supervision of the whole project of Tamsa Rejuvenation, a committee was constituted comprising Deputy Commissioner (MGNREGA), Executive Engineer (Irrigation), Executive Engineer (Flood) and was headed by CDO.

What length of the river has been revived? Please give some details about the project?

The rejuvenation was carried out for the complete length of the river which is 151 km. The complete labour cost of this project has been met by MGNREGA. There were various places where the river had completely disappeared. And farmers were using the river channel for cultivation as well.

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Under the project, big iron nets have been put on the drains so that polluted material does not flow along with the drain to Tamsa and thus do not pollute the river. Polythene has been banned in all the nearby gram panchayats. Pollution has also been restricted by encouraging social cohesion and bonding.

Moreover, around 103 drains connected to Tamsa have been de-silted and restored to ensure the flow of rainwater in the river. Ponds in the catchment area and nearby places, around 108 ponds, have been rejuvenated so as to aid the groundwater recharge.

Furthermore, numerous trees have been planted as a part of the project. A total of 2,00,000 plants have been planted in which approx 1,23,000 trees have been planted by MGNREGA and approximately 75,000 plants have been planted by the forest department.

What are the innovative steps taken for the revival of Tamsa river?

We took an innovative approach for the revival of Tamsa river and also a major focus was on the community involvement in the project. The engagement of people in the project and their valuable contribution marks a wave of behavioural change which is an important factor for sustainable use of the natural resource. Some of the innovative steps taken were:

  • No external funds were used in the Tamsa project. Convergence was done in MGNREGA, State Finance & 14th Finance.
  • River rejuvenation across the whole channel length of the river has never been done before.
  • Convergence of funds by MGNREGA, Panchayati Raj funds.
  • An integrated report was prepared with the help of revenue, irrigation and MGNREGA departments, which led to a single Detailed Project Report (DPR) thus ensuring uniformity in work done across the whole length.
  • Parallel afforestation of local indigenous trees by MGNREGA and Forest department to protect the river bank.
  • And, the most important, Community Support.

Please tell us about the outcomes of the Tamsa rejuvenation project.

The outcomes of the project were quite encouraging. The effective implementation of the strategies has resulted in giving life to Tamsa which had been polluted and had a few dry stretches. The outcomes were:

  • Encroachment free river channel with a steady flow of water – The people confided that the river was completely dry during the summer months before the project completed. In other words, a dry seasonal stream has been revived and water is available throughout the year now. The increased water storage in the river has improved groundwater levels.
  • Water Conservation – People living in villages along Tammsaare now able to satisfy water needs. Though still not fully, the water requirement will not be as much as was the case before taking up the project.
  • Agriculture Productivity – There is also evidence of improved moisture region from good growth of grass and fodder in the adjacent areas. There will surely be a positive impact on agricultural productivity. The de-silted soil from the river bed, spread on the farmers’ fields has improved soil fertility and crop productivity. There is a clear indication that farmers now feel assured about the sustainability of water availability. Groundwater aquifers provide an important ‘insurance’ against climate variability. Due to availability of water in the river, there is a significant increase in both groundwater storage and net groundwater contribution to the river. Various drains that are connected to Tamsa pass through the field areas. And when water started flowing through these drains, the adjacent land area had a convenient source for irrigation.

Also Read: A TALE OF BELATALI FROM STENCHING SWAMP TO FRESHWATER BODY

  • The problem of water logging solved– The areas besides Tamsa River suffered from water logging problem in monsoon which, has been solved after the rejuvenation of Tamsa and also the seasonal drains connecting to Tamsa. Due to the riverbank erosion and the channel migration, the Tamsa river had lost a part of its land area, and some areas were completely flood prone. So after the restoration work has been done both of these major problems of flood and soil erosion have been solved.
  • Improvement in aesthetics of environment – River restoration has improved the aesthetics of the environment by restoring natural landscape features and benefitting the associated flora and fauna, creating nicer surroundings.
  • Keeping the cultural heritage intact – As stated earlier Tamsariver is a mythological river, mention of which is also there in “Ramcharit Manas”. So while the work of river restoration is done, also specific work on the development of “Ashramas” and “Ghats” will be started soon, so as to keep intact a cultural heritage of “Treta Yug”.
  • River catchment planning– River catchment planning is the management of the water resources, ecology and pollution to preserve and enhance the quality of water and river by bringing together partners to find the best ways to manage rivers. It is a framework for assessing the potential for improvement and identifying areas in need of restoration on a catchment. For instance, catchment planning improved the ecological status of Tamsa and also provided solutions for sustainable flood alleviation issues where properties are at risk.
  • The health value of waterways to the population– Pollution of water sources is a problem that affects health. Contamination of water from human activities has serious consequences. Not only does it cause environmental degradation and destruction of the ecosystem, it also affects the quality of water and air. Pathogens in stagnant water cause waterborne illnesses and pollutants in the ground affect drinking water. When Tamsa was cleaned up and restored, a healthy river equated to salubrious surroundings that in turn affected the wellbeing of people.
  • Community Mobilization– Community Participation plays a key role in effective drought management for the planning of water conservation and recharge. With the help of District Administration and the village community, river encroachment was addressed to a large extent. A proactive community and a responsive district administration set a water agenda for themselves. Supporting each other in reviving the river, 108 ponds, 103 drains, scaling up their own capacities to undertake the task of rejuvenation.
  • Benefits to fishermen – Use of river by fishermen and local villagers for fishing purpose which benefits them economically.

As Tamsa rejuvenation project concluded successfully, what would be further initiatives to improve the water scenario in the district?

There are several works which will also be done in relation to the Tamsa rejuvenation such as-

  • Linking of Tamsa River with Kalyani River which is a perennial river. Total 8 km length work was to be done for linking these rivers in which 3 km work has been completed.
  • Planning and strategizing is ongoing for building check dams on Tamsa River.
  • Further, we are planning to develop ghats on the river bank as a tourist spot. The involvement of MGNREGA, Zila Panchayat and State Finance will be there for the ghat development.
  • Further, development of Ecological Parks on GS lands near Tamsa with the help of MGNREGA and Forest Department is also what we are looking forward to.

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