Bhusur squeezes its way through Doranda in the south of Ranchi while Jumar (left) is its shallow self in the north of the capital city. Pictures by Hardeep Singh
For Young Jharkhand, Ranchi is a city of a single river — the old and choking Harmu, which barely passes muster as a rivulet and has recently bagged a Rs 83-crore revival plan.
But, those who are lucky to have their grandparents alive may know otherwise. The elderly, who settled here in the early 20th century, still tell stories about howling foxes, long lizards, whistling snakes, tea gardens and — last but not the least — two forgotten lifelines!
These rivers of the north and the south, which boast modern bridges to keep the city linked to its fringes, are hardly noticed until monsoon rain makes a splash on their parched beds.
On Sunday, The Telegraph spanned the length and breadth of Jumar and Bhusur to marvel at their serenity but be dismayed by pollution and encroachment, cankers that cry for attention of intellectuals and conservationists.
Birth of Jumar
It flows for 15km in the north of capital Ranchi and another 15km outside the city. Although the point of origin of this river has not been officially noted, geologist Nitish Priyadarshi claims the Jumar’s source is close to the Kanke reservoir.
According to him, before the construction of the dam in 1954, another natural reservoir close to the site was developed as a water pumping station in 1932. Two rivulets flowing out of it was known as Potpoto and Jumar, the latter widened in the north to become a river. Both meet near Boreya before draining into River Subernarekha.
Ramdev Ram, a resident of Kanke, says Jumar is cleaner than Harmu because it does not wend its way through the concrete jungles of Ranchi. However, it needs immediate attention because of extensive sand mining.
Priyadarshi agreed. “Jumar is an excellent source of sand. Owing to unauthorised mining operations, sand layers have almost vanished and the river is on the brink of death. Unless it rains very heavily, Jumar remains as dry as a bone. Encroachments along Potpoto and littering by people are polluting the river,” he pointed out.
Biography of Bhusur
Popularly known as River Doranda, its origin can be traced near Nagri, on the outskirts of the capital. Bhusur flows nearly 25km inside the city while it has a total length of approximately 40km.
According to geologists, domestic garbage and industrial effluents are sounding the death knell for this river. Samit Kumar, a resident of Shukla Colony along the river, couldn’t agree more.
“The river is on its deathbed. When we were children, there had been no single monsoon when Bhusur’s waters did not flood its banks. Today, vertical growth has curbed its flow. Encroaching concrete is squeezing life out of the river along with pollutants,” the 58-year-old said.
What has been done
Laxman Kacchap, the councillor of ward No. 50, claims he has never come across any plan of the Ranchi Municipal Corporation (RMC) that speaks about cleaning rivers.
“A river flowing by Tapovan Temple near Rajendra Chowk in Doranda falls in my ward. It is Harmu and nobody is unaware of its plight. On the southern side is Bhusur. Cleaning missions and bleaching powder campaigns are restricted to festivals like Chhath. There is no comprehensive plan to treat the ailing rivers,” he said.
Md Aslam, councillor of ward No. 25 that exercises jurisdiction over approximately a 2km stretch of Harmu, said attention was paid mostly on paper. “I have never felt any committed approach from either RMC or the state government,” he said.
On July 18, Rajya Sabha member Parimal Nathwani had raised the issue of rejuvenation and beautification of Harmu. Earlier, Union minister of state for water resources Santosh Gangwar had informed him that the river was not listed as one of the 150 polluted lifelines of the country by the Central Pollution Control Board because the state did not send any proposal for the same.
The urban development department has now almost completed a detail project report with technical support of experts from IIT-Mumbai, BIT-Mesra and Mumbai-based planning company Tandon Group to revive the river.
What must be done
Priyadarshi underscores the need to bestow equal significance to Jumar and Bhusur.
“Ranchi is integral to the Chotanagpur Plateau region. It is important to understand that only dams cannot fulfil the capital’s water requirements. Replenishing all the rivers is necessary,” he said.
The geologist explained that the three rivers actually played a crucial role in regulating the weather of this plateau area. “These are natural groundwater recharging zones. The rivers help in creating a green belt around the city, which in return acts as a temperature regulator. So, it is of utmost importance that all these rivers are saved,” he added.
Finally, a promise
Chief executive officer of RMC Manoj Kumar conceded that not much attention had been paid to Jumar, Bhusur or Potpoto for that matter. “We will plan for rejuvenation and beautification of the rivers in the near future,” said the chief executive officer.
What all should be done to save Ranchi’s rivers?