Pithoragarh, November 1
The river network in the Kumaon region has been suitable for habitation since ancient times. Most of the villages in the region are situated along the rivers in numerous valleys having the most fertile land. “It seems that since the ancient times, people have been settling alongside the rivers in the region. This is evident from the fact that most of the villages are situated in river valleys in Kumaon,” says Padma Datt Pant, a cultural historian of the region.
The main river valleys in the Kumaon region can be identified as the Kali river valley, Gori valley, Koshi valley and the Ramganga (eastern) valley, besides the Gaula and Nandhor valleys. The Gaula and Nandhor rivers are rain-fed rivers. The Kali, which is one of the longest rivers of Kumaon, takes the name of Sharda when it reaches the Tanakpur plains of Champawat district. It originates from the Kalapani glacier situated at a height of 16,000 feet and comprises one of the longest valley human settlements in the region. More than 100 villages and five major towns are situated at its banks. The valley of the eastern Ramganga, which originates from the Namik glacier in Pithoragarh district, has less habitation as it passes mostly through barren terrain before reaching Thal town where most of the pollutants flow into it. “Except at Thal town where the Ramganga gets polluted, the river beyond the Rameshwar ghat in Pithoragarh, where it merges with the Saryu, is categorised as almost clean,” says a study done by N. Semwal, a scientist of the Central Pollution Control Board, New Delhi.
The Saryu valley, which begins from Surmon in the Malla Danpur area of Bageshwar district, is also one of the highly inhabited river valleys of the region. Residents of more than 200 villages existing along the Ramganga banks use the river water for agricultural purposes but dispose of their domestic waste into it. “We found slight pollution in the river at the Loharkhet micro Hydroelectirc project at Kapkot. Otherwise, the river falls in the clean category,” says Semwal.
According to the study, slight pollution was noticed in the Gomati at Kurarigar near Bageshwar. The Gomati originates from Maigari estate between the Glwaldam and Garur regions of Bageshwar district and merges with the Saryu at Bageshwar. The Kosi, which is a spring-fed river of Kumaon and originates from near Kausani, was also found to be clean.
“While the agricultural practices contributed pesticides such as endosulfan, dieldrin and DDT to the rivers flowing near the villages, open defecation at riverbanks affected their aesthetic water quality,” says the study.
Pollution in Uttarakhand rivers, especially in the rivers in Kumaon, is increasing due to rise in population and dumping of sewage in their tributaries. “We have found toxicants more than the permissible limit in the Thuligar, a tributary of the Kali. These pollutants flow into the Thuligar from the residential areas of Pithoragarh town and Army and paramilitary colonies situated along its banks in the Soor valley region of Pithoragarh district,” said Tribhuwan Pant, a retired scientist from the Defence Agricultural Research Laboratory, Haldwani.
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