How has water privatisation affected Chattisgarh?

The Mahanadi's longest tributary, the Shivnath, has borne the brunt of urbanisation and industrialisation but the impact has been felt the most by residents. We capture their story in pictures.
Shivnath river near Mahamara Barrage, Durg Shivnath river near Mahamara Barrage, Durg

The Shivnath River is the longest tributary of the Mahanadi River. It was the first river in India whose water rights (23.5 km stretch of the Shivnath River in Durg district, Chattisgarh) were sold to a private company Radius Water Limited (RWL) 16 years ago. The Shivnath is the main source of drinking water for the cities of Durg, Bhilai and Rajnandgao. With increasing urbanisation and industrialisation, more and more water has to be pumped from the river by the Municipal Corporations to meet the increasing water demand.

In the last two decades, people living around the banks of Shivnath have seen drastic changes in the constitution of the river and the river bed. The water quality has deteriorated probably due to the unregulated economic activities around the river. Increased human intervention in the river bed, the riverine economy, the ecosystem of the region and the groundwater quality within the basin is also badly affected. Like many rivers in India, the Shivnath is also the recepient of the Industrial effluents and sewage of Bhilai-Durg and Rajnandgao.

With the increase in the demand of bricks for Durg and Rajnandgao districts, the brick kiln business around the Shivnath has more than doubled from 100 to 250 units in the last decade. These units use the soil from the river bed for making bricks, and this unregulated soil excavation has lead to several hydro-morphological changes in the river channel including river bank erosion. The dams (barrages/anicuts) and bridges built on the Shivnath are also responsible for the river bank erosion across the basin, which has greatly affected the lives and livelihoods of the community.

The impact of these changes are most visible to and through the eyes of residents.

 

The water treatment plant at Mohara village near Rajnandgao.

 

 

Many women living along the banks of the Shivnath walk 0.5 to 1km to bring safe drinking water. Borewells are the only source of water for many of these residents. Treated water is still a dream to most.

 

 

Thousands of villagers have stopped using river water for bathing due to increasing health problems related to water borne diseases. Also, there is a stench in the water, according to Bisau and Shatrughan, fishermen of Rasmada village in Durg.  In the last decade, the water quality of the Shivnath river has deteriorated. People are now more dependent on groundwater.

 

 

Every year, soil erosion is increasing on the banks of the river. 20-25 farmers have lost almost 20 acres of farming land due to soil erosion in a decade. The main reason for this is the lack of erosion mitigation mechanisms and the building of anicuts on the river, according to Johan Lal Nishad from Nagpura village.

 

 

"There are around 250-300 brick kiln units around the stretch of the Shivnath. Most of the soil from the river bed is used by these units. There is no regulatory mechanism, so the continuous excavation of the soil has deteriorated the soil quality around the Shivnath", says Shiv Nishad, former Sarpanch of Mahamara village.

 

 

Shanti Bai, a vegetable seller of Piperkhedi village in Durg says, "The livelihoods of more than 250 marginalised farmers who used to grow vegetables around the Shivnath in Durg has been affected. The main reason is over-extraction of soil from the river bed.

 

 

"Local varieties of fish such as Pengana, Khodawa, Kotri, Sarangi and Rudani have almost vanished. The main reason is pollution and building of various anicuts on the river", says Darbari Ram Nishad, a fisherman of Malaud village in Durg.

 

 

“Within a decade, only 10 families out of 150 in Jevara Sirsa village in Durg, are pursuing pottery.   The reasons for this decline in the pottery business are the reduced quality and availability of soil, the increased cost of the soil, and the reduced demand for mud pots", says Sohan Kumbhakar, a resident of Jevara Sirsa, Durg.

 

 

 

View more photos of the Shivnath river in Chhattisgarh.

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