One pond at a time, water-stressed district hopes to find new Aqua | News from Noida
This has been the fate of several other water bodies in the Gautam Budh Nagar district – in the 1.3 hectare pond at the police lines of the Surajpur collector (32 km from Noida), Bilaspur village ( 41 km from Noida), Salempur (33 km from Noida) and another village of Rampur (16 km from Noida), for example.
Today Chauganpur pond has 4 feet of water which is expected to rise up to 10 feet in the coming monsoon months. Without hyacinth and surrounded by native species of flora, the pond is thriving. Not just for locals but also for migrating birds, who opt to perch on a small island high in the middle of the body of water. Little grebe, black-winged stilt, spot-billed duck, black-naped ibis, bar-headed goose and purple sunbird are some of the birds spotted in recent weeks.
Revenue records for 2019 show that Gautam Budh Nagar is listed among 255 water-stressed districts in India. Environmentalists agree. Land records data from 2019 shows that there were around 1,000 traditional ponds and water bodies (474 in Dadri, 281 in Jewar and 245 in Sadar) in GB Nagar, collectively constituting an area of 4.5 km2.
But many of them have been overrun, died or are used as landfills.
“50% of the ponds listed in the 2010 revenue records were partially or totally encroached. This percentage has increased to over 60-70% now. Unfortunately, there is no body of water in its traditional form today, especially in Noida,” said Vikrant Tongad, a Noida-based environmentalist and founder of Social Action for Forest and Agriculture. environment (SAFE).
Aware of this alarming trend, in 2019 the district administration signed a memorandum of understanding with the HCL Foundation to rejuvenate the water bodies. “The project has rehabilitated and rejuvenated 55 water bodies out of a total of 72 that were part of the MoU. Work is ongoing on the remaining water bodies,” said Anil Kumar Singh, Development Manager, GB Nagar.
Those that have been revived so far include Chauganpur village pond as well as Surajpur, Rampur and Salempur police line ponds in Greater Noida.
District Magistrate Suhas LY told TOI that restoring water bodies was a “high priority” for the administration. “But the soil and silt of the body of water should be treated as government property and should not be misused for financial or commercial gain. I am told that in one such case silt from a pond was used in a village for a landfill. This is how state property should be used,” he added.
Ten ponds in seven urban villages were restored under another MoU with Noida Authority in 2019. These are water bodies in Shahadara (Sector 141), Gulawali (two ponds, sector 162), Jhatta (2 ponds, sector 159), Mangrauli Banger (Sector 167), Asgarpur (Sector 128), Badauli (Sector 154) and Kondali (2 ponds, Sector 150).
“These ponds will be further restored with filters before the monsoon arrives this year. This will help us fill the pond with fresh rainwater,” an HCL spokesperson said.
The process of cleaning and restoring each body of water is not an easy task. It can take up to months apart from heavy work. Normally, the first step is to remove the silt from the bed of the body of water. These residues of waste and invasive plants clog the groundwater recharge channels.
“In Chauganpur village, more than 300 road trucks of hyacinth and silt have been removed. It took over two months. All work was carried out from July 2020 to October 2021 — longer than normal due to the pandemic. Over 200 workers have been deployed,” the HCL spokesperson said.
Often the process is very time consuming because waste or invasive plant species must be removed physically, without the aid of machinery. After that, the pond is cleared of all contaminated water and left to dry for 10-15 days. In the second phase, filtration chambers are installed and entrances and exits are constructed so that the water is artificially directed towards these bodies.
The final phase of the process consists of involving the inhabitants and raising awareness among the residents. Volunteers can help in the cleaning process but above all, ensure the regular maintenance of the body of water with the help of NGOs.
Ramveer Tanwar is among the volunteers who helped clean up the water bodies of Rampur, Bilaspur and Salempur. “It took about six months to clean and rejuvenate Rampur and Salempur ponds from December 2021 to May 2022. Work at Bilaspur pond will be completed by November this year,” said the resident of Grand Noida.
Tongad, whose organization SAFE has been involved in eight such projects in Greater Noida, stressed on Sunday that the challenge ahead remains difficult. Only about 60-70 ponds have been restored so far, but hundreds more are pending.
“Cleaning a small body of water can cost around Rs 7-8 lakh, but it can go up to Rs 15-20 lakh for larger ones. Much more work is needed to regenerate the neighborhood’s many traditional water features. For this, we are asking for help from companies,” he said.