Can the Saraswati river be revived ?
Yes it can says the Haryana Government
Yes it can say water experts too
For instance Rajinder Singh, the recipient of the International Water Prize and the man responsible for actually reviving six extinct rivers in Rajasthan says “ it’s a slow, painstaking process where the underground water aquifers have to be recharged, a series of check dams, ponds, lakes and streams have to be reconstructed along the known river bed; people along the course of the river have to work constantly at this…and yes within a period of 5 to 6 years the Saraswati will be back on her old course”
A proposal to resurrect the Saraswati River submitted by the Haryana government says “around 6000 years ago the Saraswati river disappeared due to tectonic disturbances, impacting its tributaries. At present the river is alive and flowing underground. “
After coming to power in Haryana in October 2014, the BJP-led Haryana government announced its intent to revive the mythical river. Among the various works proposed to achieve this, was the construction of Adi Badri Dam on Somb River, its piped link to the origin of the (currently non-existent) Saraswati River and the proposed Saraswati reservoir.
According to the state’s pre-feasibility report for this project, the Saraswati river system in the Vedic period included rivers like Ghaggar, Markanda, Chautang, Sutlej and Yamuna.
The report referenced studies which have indicated that the Yamuna, as well as Sutlej, were tributaries of Saraswati river but around 3700 BC, due to tectonic disturbances in the area, Saraswati’s Yamuna tributary was diverted to its present course and Sutlej was deflected to the west later causing the disappearance of the Saraswati river. The report claimed the Saraswati originated at Adi Badri, a site of archeological and religious significance located around 40 kilometres away from Yamunanagar town of Haryana, at the foothills of the Shivalik mountains, near the Somb river.
The 2018 proposal for the revival of Saraswati river was recently considered by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change’s (MoEFCC) Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) for River Valley and Hydroelectric Projects, in its meeting on May 27, 2019. The project was seeking Terms of Reference, which are guidelines for conducting environmental studies of projects after which the project goes on for environment clearance. The proposal, however, was dismissed by the expert panel as it neither pertains to irrigation nor hydropower generation and does not nminutes of the expert panel’s eed environment clearance.
According to the May 2019 meeting, the EAC observed that the present project aimed for the purpose of revival of Saraswati River is a “heritage project” with additional benefits like groundwater recharge, flood control, fish farming and recreation/tourism. The committee also observed that the current project does not involve any components of irrigation/hydropower generation and that it involves “infrastructure development”.
“The above project activity in the present form may not be considered by this committee and therefore may be returned as it does not require EC (environment clearance) under the EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) notification, 2006,” said the minutes.
A senior official of the environment ministry explained that the committee considers and then recommends or rejects projects which are covered under the EIA notification 2006. “In this case, the expert panel has held that this project pertains to none of the reasons – irrigation work or hydropower generation – that are covered under EIA notification. So, the project does not require EC from the ministry,” said the MoEFCC official.
Though whether this means that the project could now go ahead without clearance from MoEFCC is unclear and the environment ministry official refused to say so. However, the officials speculate that the project, being sensitive in nature, could face legal challenges.
The proposal was earlier considered by the EAC during its August 2018 meeting. During that meeting, the EAC was told that the proposed 33.4 metres high and 160-metres long Adi Badri dam and Saraswati reservoir would help in recharging the groundwater in Himachal Pradesh and Haryana and that recharge will also take along the course of Saraswati River (as claimed by the project proponents). It would involve diversion of about 31.16 hectares of forest land. The estimated cost of the project at the time of the proposal is about Rs. 1.08 billion (Rs. 108.70 crores).
During the August 2018 meeting, it was mentioned that the proposed project is not a direct irrigation project and the “outcome of the project is the rejuvenation of Saraswati River, flood control and groundwater recharge.” However, on that, the EAC had observed that the aim of the project is not clear as it was mentioned that indirect irrigation is involved and diversion of water during monsoon period shall be carried out to rejuvenate Saraswati river.
The EAC had advised the project proponent to firm-up the objectives of the project and come back to the MoEFCC for reconsideration for the terms of reference. It had clarified that the project cannot be accepted in the present form as it is not having any definite objectives and noted that the project is “deferred and shall be considered after submission of detailed information regarding quantum of culturable command area taken up for irrigation.”
The Haryana authorities re-submitted the detailed objectives of the project to the MoEFCC on March 25, 2019, after which it was considered by the EAC in its May 2019 meeting.
Environmentalist Rajinder Singh, who is also popularly known as the “Waterman”, said, “The way the government wants to revive the Saraswati river would not only harm the Yamuna but would also impact the chance to rejuvenate the Saraswati river as well. Rivers can’t be revived by digging up the groundwater. The government’s efforts would only end up benefiting the contractors involved,” says Singh
“Saraswati river can be revived but not by digging up groundwater. Instead, the government needs to focus on increasing the recharge of the groundwater in that area,” Singh said.
Will the Haryana and Rajasthan Govts be able to revive the Saraswati?
Not the way they are going
This will only end up destroying the courses of the 3 other monsoon fed rivers that they say were part of the Saraswati
So how will the Saraswati be revived?
Exactly the way the 5 rivers in Rajasthan and one in Madhya Pradesh were revived
Starting from a single village in 1985, over the years Rajinder Singh helped build over 8,600 johads and other water conservation structures to collect rainwater for the dry seasons and brought water back to over 1,000 villages and revived five rivers in Rajasthan, Arvari, Ruparel, Sarsa, Bhagani and Jahajwali.
And that by the way is the only way the Saraswati will be revived!
Can the Saraswati river be revived ?