Giving Life to a `Dead’ River
- Pallavi Priya
- Published on 7 Sep 2020, 6:43 pm IST
- 6 minutes read
This is no small feat. The river, which was the life-line of Sitamarhi district and an emotional anchor for its people, had gone dry for many years- until this IAS officer arrived on the scene.
- Abhilasha Sharma, IAS Bihar Cadre
It’s no easy task reviving a river which has gone dry, or dead. Usually it happens after years of neglect and misuse caused by humans, coupled with adverse environmental factors. Such was the case with Lalkhandei river of Bihar. Originating from Nepal, it’s considered a sister river of Bagmati river and flows from Sitamarhi to Muzaffarpur.
But thanks to one person’s determination, dedication and hard work of one person, the river which was pronounced dead has been brought back from the dead. And that person is Sitamarhi’s District Magistrate Ms Abhilasha Kumari Sharma.
For a long time, Lalkhandei river, with immense cultural and religious significance, was the main source of irrigation for the entire Sitamarhi district. However, in the last few decades the water level of river started declining due to raised pollution and silts. The river had dried up for various kilo meters, causing deterioration of ground water and hence failing to fulfil the needs of famers. But, a ray of hope gleamed when Abhilasha Kumari Sharma got her posting in Sitamarhi district.
The 2014 batch officer was transferred here as the DC in last August. Recalling the situation back then,Ms Sharma told Indian Masterminds, “ When I came here the district had already faced a flood and was in the verge of facing it again. Almost every year this river caused flood like situation in various village of the district including Pipra Kalyan, KhapKhorahaetc. This was the issues which needed to be addressed quickly. I studied the whole situation and came with a plan to revive this river and channelise it properly so that the water logging problem could be solved.”
Ms. Sharma took this project under the ‘Jal, Jeevan and Hariyali Yojna’ of the Government of Bihar. Before her posting also, few steps for the revival of Lakhandei was taken but not much had been achieved. There were several issues in the acquisition of land which were working like a barrier in the work- and these problems threatened to stop her also.
Convincing the Farmers
For the revival of the river, 23 acres of land was immediately required. The main problem was to persuade the farmers to give up their land. Ms. Sharma had already prepared a plan to tackle it. She knew that only way out is a healthy dialogue with the farmers. She visited them personally and listen to their side. In a very few meetings she found that they were not satisfied with the rates proposed to them. She promised them to get the genuine rates. At the same time, she also convinced them that how these small efforts and compromises can solve the problems for the generations to come.
Cultural and Religious significance
Lakhandei is also known as the Laxman Ganga; it has great cultural and religious significance for the local population. It is one of the main sources of water in Sitamarhi. Many rituals and festivals including the Chhath Puja used to take place in the banks of this river. But in the last few years this river started losing its attraction. Ms. Sharma knew its importance and that is what motivated her to keep working in this direction. She wanted to preserve the culture of this area by giving life to this river.
“When I was surveying around the area for making the revival plan for the river,’’ she said, “ many people told me how some of their most memorable childhood moments were attached with it. They had an emotional connect with this river. This was the reason they were all happy to help and supported our team entirely. I also channelised the river where post-cremation rituals used to taking place. That channel of the river was dried up since many years.”
Naming the tree after the villagers
Under the `Jal Jeevan and Hariyali Yojna’, Ms Sharma is also undertaking the tree plantation in the nearby areas of the river. After the completion of plantation, each tree will be named after the villagers to laud the help they provided in the revival work. A visibly happy Ms Sharma said, “I have been posted to few other district in Bihar, but Sitamarhi has been the best experience so far. The people here are very supportive and cooperate with us in every single campaign we do. The tree plantation had to be done under the yojna. While planning for it, we came up with the idea to name the saplings after the villagers so that they could get their due recognition.”
No Water Logging this year
The Lakhandei river flows for more than 18 Km in the district before going to Muzaffarpur. In two months, the work for 18 Km stretch was completed and has reached in its final stages. With the help of the plan made by Ms Sharma and her team, water flowed in most of the channel without any problem, and there was no water logging this year in the entire district.
“Every year after the flood, the water used to be logged in the fields for months. The farmers had no option but to wait. However, this year the proper channelising of river worked in our favour and there was almost zero water logging in the area. Due to the lockdown, the revival work was stopped in the final phase. Now it has been resumed and we hope that the river will be brimming with clean water very soon”, said Ms Sharma.
Not only Lakhandei, but Ms Sharma is also trying to revive several other rivers which includes the Manusmara river and the rivers in Adhwara Group. She believes that half of the problems of the district will be solved with the proper channelising of these rivers, which are main source of life here. We hope that this officer will be able to achieve her aim.
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