The river chokes on garbage in Harmu
• Harmu River flows for 11km — wending its way through Nagri, Harmu and Kadru areas — before meeting Subernarekha near Namkum
• In 2010, social activist Lallan Kumar Sharma filed
a PIL to save it from encroachments, mostly illegal constructions, and garbage
• On November 7, 2012, Jharkhand High Court directed the state to furnish a status report. It observed that the RMC and the Ranchi Regional Development Authority had not contributed to cleaning of the river
• On December 18 the same year, the JSPCB
informed court that there was no encroachment
• On June 6, 2013, the high court once again pulled up RMC for misinformation and sought a date-wise chart of work proposed to revive the river by July 15
• The next hearing is pending
Considered the lifeline of capital Ranchi, the fate of the choking Harmu River is caught in lack of priority and clear vision among district mandarins who despite repetitive reminders from Jharkhand High Court continue to offer only piecemeal solutions to revive it.
In the aftermath of the Uttarakhand tragedy this June, former adviser to the governor Madhukar Gupta formed a special committee headed by urban development secretary. The prime objective of the panel was to accelerate the Harmu campaign by identifying the ills plaguing the river and rolling out corrective measures on priority basis.
In a parallel measure, civil society members too joined hands with various NGOs and pledged to free the river of encroachments.
Two months down the line, all that excitement for a clean Harmu has fizzled out.
“The committee held two meetings to discuss basics. The deadline set to clear encroachments was July 31. August-end is approaching and no one has heard a word on revival activities. The Harmu cause is slowly and steadily sinking into oblivion because Jharkhand isn’t devoid of issues to focus on,” a senior official in the water resources department said.
The Ranchi Municipal Corporation (RMC) was entrusted with the task of conducting a survey, identifying encroachments along the river and removing them. After a few field visits and acts of tokenism, the civic body is back to its signature snooze mode.
Chief executive officer (CEO) of RMC Dipankar Panda conceded that “things are moving slow”, but insisted that they were on the job. “Earlier this month, a meeting was held by the deputy commissioner, who is the nodal officer in our save-Harmu mission. Another is scheduled by the end of this month,” Panda attempted damage control.
But, results can only be achieved if roundtable meetings make way for fast and feasible actions.
Panda defended the RMC’s slo-mo mission, saying that the civic body was “already grappling with myriad issues” over cleanliness (read its differences with private agency A2Z Waste Management Limited). “However, we have done the groundwork. We have finished survey of drains leading to the river and identified some encroachments,” the CEO claimed.
If identified, why have encroachments not been removed?
“Actually, the area around Harmu has minority population. We didn’t wish to create panic during Id. Moreover, during monsoon, work cannot be done. Also, some more survey is needed, which I believe will be done in a few days,” Panda said, adding that many other departments such as forest, mining and water resources were involved in the campaign. “And, co-ordination takes time.”
Amid this litany of excuses, River Harmu can wait in vain till another high court intervention jolts the authorities into action.