Need to focus on rivers as connectors: India high commissioner to B'desh
River as connector Credit: Representational image

Agartala: Among the 36 rivers of India, Tripura has the four most polluted ones, said Dr Rajendra Singh, also known as the ‘waterman of India’, during his visit to attend a two-day workshop on ‘river and water management for sustainable development’ in Agartala on Thursday.

Of the 11 rivers in the state, the most polluted ones are Howrah, flowing through Agartala in West Tripura district; Manu in Dhalai district; Burima in Sepahijala district; and Gomati river in Gomati district.

Speaking with reporters at a press conference, Singh said that the four rivers are highly polluted and are on the verge of dying if the habits of the people were not changed.

In a state like Tripura, which receives over 200 mm rainfall annually, such a situation is alarming and requires urgent attention by the authorities concerned, Singh said. “If the health of rivers is not good, the health of the people is also not good,” added Singh, who runs an NGO called ‘Tarun Bharat Sangh’, which was founded in 1975.

A meeting chaired by Tripura deputy chief minister Jishnu Dev Verma took place where a detailed discussion was held, after which, he was informed about the need of starting ‘water literacy’ courses in state and pass a legislation to stop water management issues.

Pointing out three major issues faced by the rivers, Singh said there is a need to stop land encroachment, control water pollution, and immediate need to stop over-extraction. Further, he added that there is a need to frame a law in order to save the rivers.

He also said that it was high time that the practice of jhum cultivation is stopped, since chopping down hundreds of tree is resulting in high soil degradation which also hampers the ecology and the environment of the state.

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“A 20-year-old sirius tree holds 1.5 liters of water through its roots but if hundreds of trees are chopped down every year for the cultivation of jhum, then soil erosion will take place. The government must think and introduce crops according to the rain pattern of the state. Linking between crop pattern and rain pattern will bring a solution for the farmer and better future of the state at the same time,” Singh added.

Rivers like Howrah and Katakhal that flow through the capital are in a very poor condition. The start is good from the top but as soon the rivers enter into the city, it becomes narrower and goes on to flow like a drain, due to littering of garbage and other waste products.

The two-day workshop was organised by the Tripura University in coordination with the state government to find ways to resonate the rivers. The delegation and the speakers called for a need to start a ‘water literacy’ movement in the state with coordination between Tripura University and state government.

If the government is willing to take the work seriously than the ‘Jal Viradari’, national water community and river Ganga mission will provide support to save the rivers of the state, said Singh, who received the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2001 and Stockholm Water Prize in 2015.

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