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Environment Ministry releases detailed reports for rejuvenation of 13 rivers

IN AN ambitious project, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has proposed the rejuvenation of 13 major rivers across the country, including Himalayan, Peninsular rivers, as well as one inland river – Luni.
The rivers identified for the project run through 24 states and two Union Territories and will be rejuvenated through “forestry interventions’’ with an outlay of Rs 19,343 crore set aside by the government. The detailed project reports for the rivers were released by Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav on Monday in the presence of Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat.
The rivers identified for forestry interventions include Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas, Sutlej, Yamuna, Brahmaputra, Luni, Narmada, Godavari, Mahanadi, Krishna, and Cauvery and will be funded by the National Afforestation and Eco-development Board under the Ministry and the DPRs have been prepared by the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education, Dehradun (ICFRE).
“In developing the DPRs, we have not only planned for the rivers, but their tributaries as well. Each river has numerous tributaries – Jhelum has 24, Chenab has 17, Rabi has 6, Brahmaputra has 30, Mahanadi has 7 and Krishna has 13 etc – so we have looked at the entire network of the rivers. Apart from the rejuvenation of the rivers themselves, there are several other important issues which will be tackled through the project including reversal of desertification, the preservation of biodiversity and the protection of wildlife in these areas,’’said Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav.
The 13 rivers collectively cover a total basin area of 18,90,110 square kilometres that represents 57.45% of the geographical area of the country. The length of 13 rivers, including 202 tributaries within the delineated riverscapes, is 42,830 km.
The largest outlay has been sanctioned for the Yamuna at Rs 3,869 crore and the smallest for Chenab at Rs 376 crore.
“It was a much needed intervention, and the DPRs have been developed with microdetailing,’’ said Shekhawat.
“There are three major landscapes along the rivers – natural, agricultural and urban – and plans have been created specifically for these different landscapes including specific plans for each river. The rivers and their basins have been impacted by development – whether it is the expansion of the road network, construction of hydroelectric projects or expansion of agriculture. The most common problems which have been identified include reduced water flow in the rivers, deforestation in the catchment area, fragile ecology, bank and soil erosion, siltation and shifting cultivation. All these issues have led to the poor health of the rivers which is reflected in both the quantity and quality of water. This in turn affects agricultural productivity, livelihood security, public health and aquatic systems,’’said former Deputy Director (Research) ICFRE, S D Sharma, adding that all nine agencies under ICFRE were involved in developing the DPRs, which was initiated in 2019.
The different models of forestry plantations including timber species, medicinal plants, grasses, shrubs and fuel fodder and fruit trees are aimed to augment water, ground water recharge and contain erosion. A total of 667 treatment and plantation models are proposed in all the 13 DPRs and in all, 283 treatment models have been proposed for the natural landscapes, 97 treatments models in agriculture landscapes and 116 different treatment models in urban landscapes.

Site specific treatments in terms of soil and moisture conservation and plantations of grasses, herbs, forestry and horticultural trees have been proposed for treatment of prioritized sites in the riverscape supported by GIS techniques.
Sharma further said that the projected direct benefits from the project include an expected increase in cumulative forest cover by 7,417.36 sq km across 13 riverscapes, sequestering of 50 million tons CO 2 equivalent in 10-year-old plantations and 74.76 million tons CO 2 equivalent in 20-year-old plantations. The proposed interventions in 13 riverscapes will help in ground water recharge of 1,889.89 million cubic meters annually and a reduction in sedimentation to the tune of 64,83,114 cubic meters.

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