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Environmental restoration of Banganga


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  • 1. ENVIRONMENTAL RESTORATION OF BANGANGA, KATRAThe water resources system in the environs of the Vaishno Devi pilgrimage is rather complex due to anumber of reasons. It occupies the Trikut Hill region of the Siwaliks in the Jammu and Kashmir State.Its compact ecosystem is affected particularly due to human interventions that act upon it.The pilgrims of the shrine converge at the town of Katra, district Reasi in Jammu and Kashmir.Occupying the central part of Banganga watershed it is situated on the bank of Banganga stream. TheShrine affairs are looked after by the Sri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, [hereafter ‘Shrine Board’]administration from its headquarters at Katra. It is, legally, an autonomous body created by the StateGovernment of Jammu and Kashmir. Mr. Puneet Kumar, Additional CEO who is deputed from the IndianAdministrative Service (IAS) heads the ‘Shrine Board’ office at Katra. The CEO, Dr Arun Kumar IASoperating from Srinagar, reports directly to the Government of Jammu and Kashmir on all matters relatedto the ‘Shrine Board’. The ‘Shrine Board’ office at Katra is comprised of sections such as engineering,forestry, sanitation and all related matters to look after the entire Shrine affairs. There is however, amunicipal authority of Katra town, hence, maintaining water supply and sanitation including solid wastemanagement, sewerage, and various civic tasks obviously are to be jointly shared. However, the ‘ShrineBoard’ has created stronger infrastructures to deal with these matters and hence except for Katra town thecommon tasks are better managed. There is also the participation of the line departments of thegovernment of Jammu & Kashmir in various common activities. Public Health congenial department(PHED) look after the drinking water supply and the state Electricity Board is in charge of power supply.Only a few villages are situated on the watershed; it has a low population density. There are visible signsof urbanization and its growing trends, which adds to the problems of water shortage and future threats ofwater crunch. The volume of visitors to the shrine is increasing with each passing year. Presently, 32000pilgrims visit the shrine every day at an average. This has, directly or indirectly, impacted upon theenvironment of the area.Besides, bigger threats are emerging out in the sanitation front. The task of maintaining sanitation of thetown, its drainage stream Banganga, the 14 km. trekking route leading to the Shrine, and all residentialestablishments that the ‘Shrine Board’ maintains, is one major task.The host town Katra, the shrine and the trekking routes connecting the two are provided with pipeddrinking water supply. The source of this supply is the Samkal spring located at a higher altitude of theBanganga watershed and the supply network is linked to gravity mains descending from Samkal. Theflow of the spring reduces as the summer approaches creating a water supply crunch.Water Resources System:The rainfall situation in the area is apparently fair which is about the only positive indicator for making arestoration plan to rejuvenate the springs of the area. The main problem of the area appears to be its lowwater retention capacity. There is very limited space for groundwater storage although there are activefissure systems that help groundwater to flow and feed the springs. Apparently, the system ofgroundwater that acts upon the springs and the flowing streams is active at a shallower depth. The otheractive water retention system of the area lies in the thin soil cover that lies over a denser fractured rock.At the foothill region, there is a massive deposit of the assorted clay, sand, gravel and boulders that isfurther eroded by the streams in a distinct manner. The town of Katra is situated on this deposit and asone moves towards Jammu and Riasi, the road follows a descending path through deep-cut gorgesdisplaying the cross sections of the land over which town is situated.
  • 2. The geological setting of the region favors rapid gully formation and landslides. This proneness tolandslide is further enhanced by manmade actions such as digging, building houses and roads, erectingtowers and poles etc.At the tip of the watershed the drainage stream Banganga emerges from the spring Samkal. Apparentlythis spring is charged by the water held in the adjacent highlands, which is discharged due to thefavorable fracture systems in the rocks. The hills are uniformly formed of impure limestone that arehighly fractured and are metamorphosed to a certain degree. Yet the spring has surplus water during themonsoon period – i.e., from early July to mid September; hereafter, this outflow reduces to increase againduring the winter rains of January-February. From the later part of March the surplus water stops and bymid-May the stream starts to dry up.Situation AnalysisThe Team visited three contiguous watersheds that comprise major geographical sectors of the VaishnoDevi Shrine region. The three watersheds observed are Pei, Banganga and Jajjar. The observationdistinctly shows indicators of lateral environmental and climatic variation that are visible in the form ofvegetative cover, population density, manmade interventions, agriculturalactivities and general livelihoodpatterns.Anthropogenic invasions are displayed mostly in the Banganga watershed while it is minimal in the Pei.Watershed. The watershed of the Jajjar is totally disorganized with haphazard human interceptionsthrough mining, unplanned habitations and agricultural growth, though traditional water use practices arestill in vogue.Watersheds of the Trikut hill regionThe study was focused on the Banganga watershed. But to have a comparative view, features of the twowatersheds on each side of Banganga were also studied. These are Pei watershed on Northwestern sideand Jajjar watershed towards east.Geology and Land FormsThe area occupies part of the Siwalik range, the last and the most recent group of mountain ranges of theHimalayan orogeny. The geology of the Siwaliks in the Trikut Hill region comprises the fractured impurelimestone core with unconsolidated Siwaliks that forms the hills and slopes. The piedmont region isformed of assorted clay, sand, gravel and boulders. The limestone component ranges from calcite,dolomite and magnesite. The magnesite has at times concentrated into an ore form in the Jhajhar areawhere it is mined.The land forms include steep exposed cliffs, slopes that are vegetated, gentler slopes that are very scantilyinhabited and land terraces that are used for agriculture. At the foothill the land is stepped due to erosion.The foot hill pediment is composed of unconsolidated deposits. Apparently land slopes are gentler inJajjar watershed while in Pei watershed the slopes are extremely steep, therefore, mostly barrendisplaying rock exposures, straight planes and severe landslides.
  • 3. Te foot hill region is more inhabited through this area too has distinct forest covers with trees, shrubs andgrass.Geology of Banganga Watershed:Banganga watershed from the tip to the bottom of the trunk-stream Banganga is composed of Compactimpure Limestone, assorted clay and boulders superimposed on the limestone. Limestone is partlymetamorphosed and highly fractured. Depending on the frequency of fractures groundwater flowexpressed in the form of exposed springs are the sources of water flow in the main stream and itstributaries. The mixed boulder and clay are eroded to a high degree and transported to lower reaches inthe form of a huge talus, which too is sculptured by the stream flowing at the lowest levels. One candistinguish the periods of the various geological situations within the watersheds. The river is pleasantlyflowing at the lower level eroding the existing pediment, while the pediment, which is of recent origin isformed of eroded unconsolidated formation, washed from the Shivaliks. The hill portion is exposed in itscore. It’s highly fractured counter part together with upper unconsolidated formation is highly prone toland sliding. The exposures are visible in the form of sharp escarpments, gorges, cuesta and hogbacks.Similarly the talus is cut into boulder beds and assorted clay sand and mixed formations.Groundwater:The infiltration component of the rainfall in the watershed is expected to be low due to overall lowretention capacity of the rocks. Over saturated soil releases excess water to saturate the groundwater zonethrough rock fractures. The frequency of rock fractures varies with the physical condition of the limestoneformation that underlies Shivaliks. Water retention capacity of the formation in the talus region, whichcomprises the entire foothill, is high and hence the river courses that are cutting into the pediment at thelower reaches are enriched by numerous springs. The capacities of the Talus regions are expected toincrease with augmentation of water conservation measures in the middle region.The springs are active in Jajjar while they are drying in Banganga, which is attributed to higher water usefrom springs in Jajjar. Mining activity may be one reason for the drying up of springs in Banganga that liejust on the other side of the hill. The springs at the Pei watershed is apparently undisturbed.AgricultureAgriculture is intensive in Jajjar, which has a scope to improve extensively through proper watershedtreatments. It is scarce in Pei areas where the scope for agriculture is confined to lower valley strips wherethe village people have developed some terraces. However, in Banganga it is moderate due to scarcehabitations and alternative livelihood that people has changed to due to pilgrimage visitors.Maize is the main crop of the area followed by Mustard, floriculture and vegetables. Fields are allterraced. In the hills side terraces are at times very narrow. Agriculture is exclusively rain fed.Lands are often fallow as was observed in Banganga watershed. Isolated families in interior parts of hillstoo practice agriculture in narrow terraces. Grass and cattle rearing is important for the area, though theseaspects can be much improved. The agriculture villages namely are: Guni (Pei), Taralkot, Sherwadi,Dhuroor, Purana Dhuroor, (Banganga) Partal, Kaur and Devi Pindi (Jajjar).LanduseJajjar Watershed appears dry due to scanty vegetation and scattered population. Banganga watershedappears green particularly in the Tarakut region on which the relics of Shivalik formation - mixed
  • 4. unconsolidated gravels, boulders and clay are still held with the core limestone is exposed in spots. Theadvantage of Tarakut hill is that it has gentler slopes.Along the tracks to the Shrine and at altitudes at par or lower than Katra, landuse pattern is changing dueto urbanization. In Jajjhar watershed the agricultural lands are expanding in its higher altitudes thatoccupy the middle parts of the hills.Mining activity is concentrated to Jajjhar alone.Banganga watershed is affected by the excess water use and landslides. Some distinct terraces in this areaare left uncultivated apparently due to lack of interest.Water use practicesThe area retains some of the old traditional practices that include, among other things, direct water usefrom springs for bathing, drinking, washing and Cattle use. Terraces are most commonly used for holdingrainwater taken in direct use for agriculture. Agriculture in the area is still depends on the rain and wateruse practices such as diversions, ponds, lifting devices, pumping etc. are still very much unknown formost of the farmers of the area.The devices such as open contour channels (Kul) and Aquaducts are observed in Tarakut and lowerreaches of Pei watershed that were apparently installed for domestic water use. In Banganga and Jhajhharwatersheds old water mills (Panchakki) are seen. They are still in use for grinding grains.Some of the newer practices introduced to the area include, pumping water using collector wells in theriver bed, heavy pumping from large diameter tubewells as observed in Shial Dabri. Irrigation bydiversions as observed in the Jhajhhar watersheds area, water supply by tankers for the township of Katra,are some of the unorganized efforts of water supply seen in the area. There are even one or two bottlingplants for selling drinking water commercially, too were seen. It is, however, difficult to evaluatesustainability of such efforts at this stage.Water Supply Tubewell and borewells locations visitedThe visit revealed that there are a battery of wells on the river bed (2 large springs and 6 small springs) atthe lowest altitude where river is flowing. This water is collected and pumped for Katra water supply.Beyond this, in the Pei watershed foothills, a heavy duty tube well is installed recently replacing an oldone. From this tube well water is pumped for the Shrine for water supply.The formation on which the town of Katra is situated is a deep pedimont with assorted gravel, clay,boulders and sand. Obviously this formation has a very low tranmissivity for which tube wells orborewells are not feasible here. Several times attempts were made to construct tube wells near the busstop all such attempts have failed. The failure may be due to usual boder bed problem or the drilling mayhave ended up in the impervious clay formations.Most water in the Shrine area is supplied from the Banganga source.Water is directly diverted from the tip of the Banganga stream known as Samkal at an altitude of 1629mtrs (5215 feet).
  • 5. Water supply of Katra town from a battery of collector wells, located at a lower altitude on the Bangangastream bed (2295 feet).Water supply in the Shrine is augmented by one tubewell located at the bottom of Pei watershed (2539feet) Shial Dabri.Forestry No management plan is available for the 27 of forest area under the shrine board No fire management plan is available. Good amount of butter fly population is present. The water storage structure at the top of the Tarakut hill is on the verge of destruction due to the heavy grazing stomping and pollution. Labor shortage in forestry work due to lack of under standing in between the shrine board the villagers. No proper solid waste management. Due to this wild life population is being turned into scavengers. No proper sewerage treatment is available at the Bhawan. It is being directly discharged on the slopes resulting water pollution. Wrong plantation techniques leading to heavy soil erosion. Good amount of grass cover is available. The forest is covered with enormous amount of lantana infestation which in turn is destructing the natural regeneration.A Visit to Village Purana DhuroorVisitors: DF, RK, SB, SR1The Old village has been totally transformed, shops have come up on both sides of the trekking routefrom Katra to Alok. Purana Dhurur is probably the most significant village, on the altitudes higher thanKatra. The population is scattered inside the hills. The entire area shows a low population density. Fromthe statement of Mr. Preetham Singh it appears that within the village there are no conflicts. None of theland is irrigated, it is rainfed.There are agricultural lands and there is no demand for excess lands. The agriculture is practices interraces with roughly 25 to 30 degree slopes. At the upper reaches this slope is higher. Maize is theprinciple crop grown. There is very scanty scattered population inside the hills (maximum 10 families). Itappears that land in the upper hills is not much developed. Terraces maintained by Preetham Singh, arewith out the edge bunds. There is no water holding practice, which may be appropriate for Maize. Minorindications of soil erosion are observed.People depend on Vaishov Devi Shrine Board in all respects. Preetham singh’s personal perception isthere is enough water in the Banganga and rainfall situation is excellent. There is ample rainfall during therain season and also during the winter. He is actually expecting the rains to come in any day.1 DF – Dilip Fouzdar, RK – Dr. Rakesh Khosa, SB – Dr. N. Sai Bhaskar Reddy, SR – Sreedhar Reddy
  • 6. It appears that the standard of living of Mr. Preetham Singh is high. He is having very big, reinforcedbuilding and his children are going to convent school. He was an ex employee in the State Government.He is also selling milk and earning monthly assured income.Visit to Kaur village, Jajjar Nala watershed.The slopes are gentle to the east of Banganga ridge. The springs on the Banganga ridge are extremelyactive and they are flowing in diversions at a very distinct capacity. Apparently this water is used forirrigation which is highly populated compared to the other side of the ridge. These springs are alsochannelized for running two water mills that are used for grinding grains2.In the upper reaches of this hill there are 2 villages with small population each. They have developednarrow terraces extending close to Jajjar Nala, where crops are grown through out the year like, Maize,Mustard and Raddish and other vegetables. Similarly on the other side of the stream on village wasnotices located on the top of a gentler slope, where terraces are well developed. The springs on the otherside two are active though not channelized for irrigation or other purposes. The terraces are used fordryland cropping. The vegetation is extremely sparse and the entire watershed that is both sides of the hillslopes, wears a barren look.On the left side of Jajjar Nala there is a huge deposit of Magnesite, currently the mining is stopped. Thewatershed has a sparce pine vegetation. The enquiries reveal that in the entire area pine is a naturalvegetation.Devi Pindi:This is a old temple situated at the upper tip of Jajjar Nala at a lower altitude. The jajjar Nala at this spotflows in a gorge. To the left side of Devi Pindi, few land slides were observed.Environment and Climate Change Mitigation Trikut Hill Region,JammuEnvironmental Problems and Possible Approaches to Mitigate It is apparent that water flow in the Banganga stream is decreasing. Banganga stream, the trunk drainage of the watershed flows beyond monsoon but it is reported by the local knowledgeable people that it used to flow throughout the year. The springs in the hills, that feed its perennial streams are drying. There are other minute indicators in the form of changing vegetation and minor soil erosion. Actions initiated by the Sri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board in forestry and plantation has shown a positive effect. However, the indication of depleting forests too are apparently linked with the issue of water resources. The issues of decreasing water flow in the springs and its fallout leading to drying up of Banganga stream is hence the chief concern that demand a detailed investigation with a view to restore the environmental order. Increasing number of pilgrims is one major cause2In the Tarakut hill, many old activities of water management are noticed, among them there areabandoned ponds, open aquaducts, that follow contour lines, the structure is not breached and stillused for water transportation. Besides there are many water mills, which were abandoned.
  • 7. for negative environmental impact on the overall water resources situation. It appears that a set of actions would be required for increasing the water retention facilities of the area. This has to be carried out against the unfavorable topographic conditions in an overall inaccessible terrain. The rainfall situation however, is favorable and the augmentation plan has to be made taking the rainfall trend into consideration through a well thought out engineering action specifically designed for the area.The envisaged plan for the Banganga watershed in the Trikut Hill Region, Jammu entails looking at theproblems from the total system of natural resources that basically comprise Land and Water withlandforms, drainage facilities, soil and vegetative covers, people who shares the resources and thechanging attitudes of the society. changes in the lifestyles that impacts on the natural system, impendingeffects of climate change, resource crunch as against the demands and their eventual handling – thetechnology application etc. are to be taken into account entirely to respond to the delicate situations in theBanganga watershed and its Land and Water, the two fundamental constituents of the environmentbesides Air that holds vegetation, human society and everything else.The residents of the villages visited have explained how they see the changes in terms of reduced flow inBanganga stream and reduction in the volume of snowfall. Some of the villagers observe that the snowfallis not as regular as the earlier days. During the recent years a total absence of snowfall is noticed in someyears.Conceptualized Processes to MitigateThe concept on which the present approach is based is on the rainfall distribution throughout the year, itsexact quantified volume distributed in time and area and possibilities of taking further advantage fromthis situation by way of creating facilities with a fair coverage. It hence entails making studies to have afair idea about the rainfall through analyses of available data. An approximation of the soil moisture andgroundwater indicates that more the rainfall gap between the days moisture deficiency in the soil moisturezone is more. Since the vegetation depends greatly upon the soil moisture situation, reducing it throughproper measures is likely to restore the cycle of infiltration with frequent replenishment of soil moistureand eventual ground water recharge.Major source of ground water release is still the springs that are the providers to perennial streams such asthe Banganga, Jhajhar or Pai. Besides, water is intercepted for domestic water sources from the surfaceflows of the springs. Pumping and Wells are still in rare view and it is generally not to be encouraged forthe sake of protecting the water environment and sustained water use.It is hence inferred that the ensuing task entails introducing and developing a systematic processinvolving all users with the help of concerned agencies. The task shall be approached taking into accountthe aspect of rainfall, climate, nature of storms and their frequency, traditional water use practices, futuretrends of pilgrims incursion and local water needs, land forms and terrain features, agriculture and crops,available infrastructures that can be linked with the maintenance and upkeep of created facilities andservices and all other related matters to develop a holistic plan. The next phase of action shall be towardsachieving the goal of reaching the envisaged processes linking it to the ‘Shrine Board’ and otherstakeholders who share the water resources of the Banganga watershed. All traditional water use practices shall be taken into account while making new plans of water conservation.
  • 8. A system of rainfall and climatic monitoring will be introduced covering the entire area to understand existing lateral variations and trends and also to plan all future water use. A systematic maintenance and monitoring approach will be developed and introduced. Apart from all engineering actions preceded by a scientific evaluation, there will be appropriate social actions to gain the support of all water users in achieving the objective of sustained, environment friendly water use practice. Immediately next phase of action will be a detailed contour survey at identified spots followed by engineering designs and action plans.Engineering Designs and Action PlansAll engineering plans have to be on the basis of the following:Phase by phase development of the watershed can be introduced. The present survey will mark thefirst phase of action. In the second phase a detailed engineering plan shall be worked out. Theengineering plans would aim at increasing the water retention capacity of the watershed. Allstructures that are conceived would take into consideration the rainfall distribution throughout theyear that would ensure replenishment cycles for soil moisture and ground water. The nature ofstorm (spell of rainfall in volume and duration) would be analysed to determine strength anddesign of engineering structures.Hydrological studies to include existing tube well locations and discharge; stream flow observationsof the local experienced people in absence of a systematic stream flow data; Rainfall analysis [atpresent a short time series, 1978-85, could be accessed with monthly variations].A meticulous site selection must be done for the minor or micro bunds, pools and terraces. Therepurpose will be to increase the water retention of the soil and vegetation and hence, indirectly,augment the ground water recharge.Cautious Steps: All actions have to be taken bearing the fact in mind that the area is having a verythin soil cover and it is prone to landslides. Design of each individual (micro) structure must fulfillthe basic objective of water retention.In all the built up areas of Katra, Adhkuari, Purana Durala and Banganga there is a scope for roofwater harvesting for the purpose of drinking water supply augmentation. This will entailappropriate design of the structures and design of filters.Viewing at the total environmental problems, the tasks envisaged at the Vaishno Devi environment at thetown of Katra, trekking route to the Shrine, the Shrine and its related establishments at Adhkuari,Sanchichhat, and Banganga together with the Hill environment of the Trikut Hill region is a gigantic task.Actions:
  • 9. 1) Improve all existing water retention structures including ponds and water points of the Tarakuthills, diversions and terraces. Three sites have been identified – one at the Tarakut hills, one nearthe village Purana Daurala and one at a higher location from this site.2) Begin a social motivation process to involve people in the task because by improving thefacility alone the regeneration process may not begin. The excess water may be utilizedsimultaneously in agriculture and plantation. Forestry department of the Shrine Board may playsome distinct pro-active role here.3) The climatic situation may be studied at a greater depth to understand the rainfall andhumidity factors for plant growth. The actual rainfall of the area may not match with the rainfalldata obtained from Jammu or Udhampur. Experience shows that the lateral rainfall variations aremuch greater than what is normally assumed. The problem are twofold – firstly, one has to knowthe nature of actual rainfall in the Banganga watershed and secondly, the interpolated dataobtained from the IMD3 has to be ratified using actual data. It is hence proposed that the ShrineBoard installs mini weather monitoring stations at chosen locations for getting a comparativeview on lateral changes and over several years of observations may learn about the climatechange effects.4) New engineering designs may be introduced on the following: i. Gabian structures that can be laid along the streams with gentler slopes to delay the flow of water, ii. Diversion structures to spread rainwater in the terraces iii. Gabian structures along the contours to hold more water for the plans and protect soil erosion iv. Contour channels to divert water from the slope catchments to the terraces. v. River Bank rehabilitation – two small spots will be chosen below and above the flowing cascade of village Daurala3 India Matereological Department