National

Villagers say they lost their lands as Yamuna changed course

River Yamuna at Kambakshpur village, Noida, Uttar Pradesh near New Delhi on Thursday.   | Photo Credit: Sandeep Saxena

It used to be an almost 2-kilometre-long walk to the water, said Nakshatra Nagar as he pointed to the Yamuna river flowing right next to his village, Kambakshpur.

Over the past decade, this village just off the Noida-Greater Noida Expressway has come closer to the Yamuna – maybe too close for comfort for the residents. Locals said that that in the past few years, not only has the river shifted closer to their village, but it has also submerged some of their farms and divided their land holdings.

 

As he gestured towards to a tree across the water in the distance, Jugal, another farmer from the village, said the Yamuna used to begin from there. Rambir, whose family has farmed the land for generations, added that parts of Kambakshpur's land was now across the river.

Villagers say they lost their lands as Yamuna changed course
 

“We have lost a lot. Since our village is now divided by the river, we haven't been able to farm the land on the other side. There is no bridge over the river, so we have to drive over 60 km to get to our own land just across the water,” he said.

Since the village sits on the border of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, locals said that farmers from Haryana had taken over their lands across the river.

Using Google Earth Engine, which combines over five million satellite images acquired over the past three decades by five different satellites, The Hindu was able to see how the Yamuna river changed its course over the past 32 years, from 1984 to 2016.

The images confirmed the claims made by the villagers. The curvilinear river stretch along Kambakshpur village witnessed a significant lateral shift from the Haryana side towards Uttar Pradesh since 2010. In fact, path displacement in this part of the river has been happening since the mid-1990s.

Environmentalists said this could be due to the rampant illegal sand mining, unchecked construction as well as legal infrastructure projects on or near the banks.

“The river course is indeed changing, but why is a matter for study. But, prima facie, as per what we have noticed over the years, this is not natural, but man-made. There is continuous sand mining, encroachment and vegetation loss,” said Vikrant Tongad, a Greater Noida-based water conservationist and founder of Social Action for Forest and Environment.

While villagers say that no sand mining has occurred in the area for over a year, treadmarks of trucks can be seen along the banks, indicating that there may be some mining activity at night. Photo: Sandeep  Saxena

While villagers say that no sand mining has occurred in the area for over a year, treadmarks of trucks can be seen along the banks, indicating that there may be some mining activity at night. Photo: Sandeep  Saxena  

 

 

Though mining of sand from the Yamuna floodplains was banned by the National Green Tribunal in 2015, many activists say that trucks full of sand are still leaving Noida and Greater Noida at night.

Mr. Tongad said that not only had the Yamuna been affected, but the course of the Hindon river in Greater Noida has also been altered due to construction of a bridge for the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor.

Akash Vashishtha, a conservation coordinator for the Society for Protection of Environment and Biodiversity, said that the shifting of the course of the Yamuna was largely due to illegal activities – particularly sand mining and construction on the riverbed and floodplains.

Mr. Vashishtha had petitioned the NGT in 2013 against the illegal concrete structures and farmhouses that have come up on the floodplains in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.

Activists like him have been airing their concerns about the impacts of these activities for years. From deteriorating groundwater due to the lack of natural filtration through sand to the risk of flooding due to erosion and deforestation, those living near the banks are at the front-lines of this fight.

At the nearby Gulavali village, about 2 km from the riverfront, the villagers said the groundwater had deteriorated over the past few years.

Dhanpal singh with other residents of Gulavali. Photo: Sandeep Saxena

Dhanpal singh with other residents of Gulavali. Photo: Sandeep Saxena  

 

 

“Not only has the quality of water become worse, but the water-table has dipped from 15 feet to 35 feet. This followed the construction of big real estate projects on the Expressway,” said Dhanpal Singh, a resident of Gulavali.

For villagers at Kambakshpur, however, what caused the river to shift doesn't matter as much as what they have to do now. Every monsoon, they said, the threat of flooding looms over the village.

“The water came up to the houses a few years ago. The Haryana government built an embankment on their side, so all the water rushed to our side. After we complained, the U.P. government made a bund,” said Rambir.

“Do we have to wait for the water to reach over heads for something to happen,” he asked.

(Graphics by Prathap Ravishankar and Samarth Bansal)


Our code of editorial values

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Oct 23, 2021 7:26:03 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/Villagers-say-they-lost-their-lands-as-Yamuna-changed-course/article16738187.ece1

Next Story