VARANASI: When Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised to serve the ailing ‘Maa Ganga’ while launching his election campaign here in 2014, a lot of hope was generated.
But with little being done for the river’s cause in the three years since then, conservationists are now looking forward to Chief Minister Aditya Nath Yogi’s two-day visit beginning Friday to take stock of various development projects in the VIP constituency.
Although the majestic Ganga ghats now wear a cleaner look, nothing concrete has been done to save them from collapsing due to constant erosion under the stone steps by strong currents of the river, feel local river conservationists.
“Big cavities under the ghat steps are clearly visible at several places,” said noted river scientist and former professor of IIT-BHU U K Choudhary while warning that a substantial stretch of ghats in Manikarnika area is facing a serious threat of caving in. “This stretch of ghats may submerge in the Ganga by 2020-25 if no corrective measure is taken,” he said.
Although experts of the Geological Survey of India and National Institute of Hydrology had visited the city in March 2016 to assess the danger and suggest corrective measures, the situation remains the same. The cavities and large hollow spaces under the stone steps of the ghats get exposed at several places after the Ganga water recedes considerably during summer.
“The situation is dangerous for bathers and swimmers, who get trapped in the cavities unknowingly during monsoon when they are hidden under water,” said Ram Asre, a youth bathing near Manikarnika Ghat on Thursday.
Choudhary warned that these cavities, which are increasing constantly, would prove disastrous to the artistic ghats. “A substantial stretch of the river front in Manikarnika ghat area is facing a serious threat of caving in,” he warned.
Choudhary, who’s been working on the Ganga since 1976, said: “For immediate solution, bolder pitching of the eroded areas is needed to save the river front from going down. For long-term solution, there is a need for sand bed management on the opposite bank. The height of sand bed has been increasing as sand mining is prohibited along the 7km stretch of Ganga due to presence of tortoise sanctuary.”
In November 2013, the then district magistrate Pranjal Yadav had formed a committee comprising engineers of government departments and experts from IIT-BHU to study the problem.
The local administration had conveyed to PMO its concern over the sedimentation that is taking place along the right bank of the river, resulting in increased river flow velocities along its left bank (ghat side), which can cause erosion and damage the ghats and associated structures.
The PMO in October, 2015 asked the ministry of water resources, river development and Ganga Rejuvenation to look into the matter.
The ministry had constituted a team to find out the causes of erosion and suggest immediate remedial measures to check erosion.