Usually when people talk about Nainital, the first thing that comes to mind is vacation! The next? Scenes of beautiful mountains surrounding an equally captivating lake. Hard as it might be to imagine for people living in the plains who think of hill stations like Nainital as a tourist destination, the locals are struggling with problems of their own.
A problem that many might not easily apparent is the fast depleting water table in the hilly regions. Numerous factors have combined together to ensure that waster scarcity is the next big challenge faced by areas such as Nainital in the next 5-10 years.
The Depleting Water Levels and Disappearing Streams
With the increase in population of locals and the increase in the number of tourists travelling the demand for clean water has increased exponentially. At the same time, lakes which are the only source of water in the mountains are becoming more and more polluted. Furthermore, groundwater aquifers are not getting recharged quickly enough due to the natural slope of the land. Also deforestation and construction activities in the natural recharge zones of lakes, rivers and aquifers has seen numerous streams and rivers become a thing of the past.
As is the case usually, when faced with such issues combined with apathy of the government and common people alike, people with a drive take it upon themselves to inspire an entire community.
Mr. Jadish Negi, a resident of Bhoowali, a town located 15 kilometers away from Nainital, has a similar story to tell. A real estate contractor by profession, Mr. Negi has found his calling in bigger challenges and issues faced by the community in Bhoowali. He is the head of Shipra Kalyan Samiti, an NGO formed with the sole purpose of cleaning and reviving Shipra River.
Why is the Shipra river so important?
The Shipra River is uniquely important in the Himalayan region due to the fact that it flows from the South to North. Most of the rivers in the region flow from North to South. With increasing human activities in the region where it originates, it has started to dry out in various places. This is causing shortages of water in nearby areas. On top of that, the dried river bed also serves as a waste disposal ground for nearby communities and it is very common to see a garbage dump arising out of the river bed in various places.
Mr. Negi, noticed this back in 2015 while on one of his morning walks. He immediately decided that he will work on cleaning up such sites and help revive the Shipra River.
Setting an example
What started as an occasional job, of clearing up garbage dumps along with the locals and some equipment, has turned into a more regular occurrence. He is so passionate about the project that he has invested 15 lakh rupees of his personal savings into the selfless undertaking.
‘The first part of revival of the river always starts with clearing up of garbage dumps from the river beds’, he explains. ‘Once the bank has been cleared up, you have to allow the aquifers to recharge for the water to start flowing again’.
His tireless efforts for the project are self-evident. In past 5 years, he had managed to clean up more than 20 small tributaries and small rivers in the area. Next, he is working on natural methods of replenishing the lost rivers through rain water harvesting at the source. He has dug more than 150 trenches at the top of the mountains where the rivers originate. When it rains, these trenches fill up and allow the water to seep into the ground thereby recharging the aquifers.
He hopes that his efforts will be enough to revive and replenish the Shipra River within the next 3-4 years. ‘Rivers are the lifeline of any civilization and the onus is on them. The onus is on the government and common citizens to take urgent steps to save the dying rivers’, adds Mr. Negi.
Inspiring the community
Inspired by his efforts, hundreds of people have now come forward and aim to support the initiative in whatever way they can. The state government has also decided to include the Shipra river to the project to undertaken to rejuvenate various rivers that are fast disappearing. Mr. Jagdish Negi has also been the recipient of various awards for his exemplary work in the region.