Historic Harmu River in Ranchi Dries Up Despite Conservation Efforts
The once-vibrant Harmu River, a witness to the beauty and history of Ranchi, has now run dry. Despite numerous government initiatives, the river, in the month of April, completely dried up, leaving only sewage water in its place. This grim situation can be attributed to the unlawful construction of makeshift dams by some individuals in the outskirts of the city, where rainwater collected, ultimately depleting the river’s flow. While water can still be seen in the river within the city limits, it’s essentially sewage water flowing from our homes, channeled through the city’s sewage systems.
In the past, approximately one billion rupees were allocated for the conservation of the river during the previous government’s tenure. However, the river continued to deteriorate, with the government’s investment showing little to no impact on its condition. In a renewed effort towards environmental preservation, the state government is currently investing approximately 2.2 million rupees to study the effects on the city’s environment due to the rejuvenation and conservation project for the river. Assistance from the National Institute of Technology in Nagpur is being sought for this endeavor.
Environmental experts, like Ashish Sheetal, who are involved in river conservation efforts, explain that Harmu River’s source lies in laterite soil, making it dependent on rainfall for its flow. During dry seasons, it remains mostly stagnant, filled with polluted water. In recent years, urbanization pressure has increased around both of its banks, with unauthorized settlements encroaching on its shores. Land brokers have also taken over the riverbanks, selling off land parcels, which has led to the contamination of the river with dirty runoff from these makeshift structures.
Ashish Sheetal further elaborated that for the beautification and restoration of Harmu River, the Urban Development Department had formed a committee. Surprisingly, after an inspection, the committee approved a flawed Detailed Project Report (DPR). Despite this, construction work based on the faulty DPR incurred an expenditure of 840 million rupees.
The critical condition of the Harmu River highlights the pressing need for comprehensive measures to protect and rejuvenate this vital water body. The government’s renewed focus on the river’s conservation is a welcome step, but it will require a multi-pronged approach, including strict enforcement against illegal dam construction, pollution control, and sustainable urban planning, to ensure the river flows freely once again and restores its former glory as a symbol of Ranchi’s beauty and history.
The River’s Tragic Transformation
Seven years ago, under the pretext of beautifying this river, it was further ruined. Concrete walls were erected on both banks of the river, completely cutting off the source of water in the vicinity. The journey of Harmu River’s rejuvenation and beautification began during the rule of the Raghuvar Das government. However, this beautification became synonymous with unbridled exploitation. Officials and contractors filled their pockets while the river dwindled. Neither did the river’s beauty improve, nor did it get revitalized.
More than 85 crores were spent on the beautification of Harmu River, but the results were futile. Instead, the width of the river reduced even further. Initially, officials and contractors plundered the river, and later the land mafia completed the job. The land mafia sold off the land along both banks of the river. Concrete jungles emerged on both banks, squeezing the river further. As the river contracted, groundwater levels in the surrounding areas plummeted. Water issues began to plague the areas on all sides of the river.
Elderly residents in the vicinity recall that the water of this river was once used for drinking. People around here recall that during the rainy season, the water was slightly turbid, but for the rest of the year, Harmu River used to flow with fairly clean water. People used to come here for bathing, and the water was used for drinking, irrigating fields, and more. Twenty-five years ago, the identity of this river was quite different, and today, its existence is almost lost.
It’s worth noting that to the north of Harmu River are Harmu Colony, Argoda, and Ashok Nagar, while to the south are Kishorganj, Gari Khana, and Ratoo Road areas. To the east of this river are Old Ranchi, Hindpiri, PP Compound, and Main Road areas. Twenty-five years ago, open fields stretched to Mudala Hill in the western direction. Now, in the western direction, there is Vidyanagar and several small colonies and localities that have sprung up beyond Mudala Hill. This river was the lifeline for water in these areas. But now, its entire course has changed. It has transformed into a dirty drain.