Belagavi: The postal department attributed a special envelope to Dr Poornima Gouroji from Ramdurg town, who has been fighting for the protection and rejuvenation of Malaprabha river since past over 16 years through judiciary showcasing the power on an individual in the Indian democracy.
Because of her efforts, Ramdurg became first town of the district that is getting 24X7 drinking water. Doctor by profession and environmentalist by passion, Dr Poornima want Malaprabha river should be developed on the lines of Sabarmati river in Gujarat. Apart from judicial fight, she has also taken her fight through a political system by writing letters to the prime minister Narendra Modi and local chief ministers. Most of them all appreciated her efforts by giving positive response.
River Malaprabha that originates in Western Ghats near Kankumbi in Khanapur taluk flows through Savadatti, Ramdurg and Badami and later joins into Krishna river at Kudalasangama in Bagalkot district. Naviluteerth Dam built to the river in Savadatti taluk. Malaprabha river is one of the main sources of drinking water to Hubballi-Dharwad twin cities. This activist wants 172kms river from Naviluteerth to Kudalasangama should be rejuvenated by removing encroachments.
Story goes back to 2003 when Dr Poornima filed PIL in Karnataka High Court seeking cleaning of Malaprabha river and potable drinking water to the people of Ramdurg town after she found many people are falling sick by drinking impure water. Within a year, government established water purification plant of 4.54 billion gallon litres spending Rs 5 crores in Ramdurg town and started supplying potable water. Besides, government gave undertaking in the court about cleaning of river. Government laid pipeline from Naviluteerth Dam to Ramdurg in the cost of Rs 68.76 crores and spent Rs 19 crores on UGD in Ramdurg town. To get done all these works, Dr Poornima never leaved a stone unturned from small office to Vidhana Soudha.
After giving undertaking in the court, government has taken rejuvenation work of the river outskirts of Ramdurg in the cost of Rs 7 crores. However,the activist is not happy with the standard of work besides taking the work without conducting survey of encroachment. Activist alleges that, in the name of river rejuvenation, contractors sold out available sand in the river and doing sub-standard work.
Challenging the sub-standard of work, activist Dr Poornima filed complaint in Lokayukta in the March 2017. The case is under investigation. Lokayukta has served notice to irrigation department, an implementation authority to give the survey report on the river encroachment from Naviluteerth to Kudalasangam.
According to Dr Poornima, farmers have encroached hundreds of acres land on the banks of river, which needs to be cleared for the natural flow of water. Because of ongoing river encroachment, river is getting narrowed, due to which flood create havoc recently. Due to some political intervention, survey work is not going as fast as expected. “My fight will be continued till and target is achieved”, activist stated.
Dr Poornima said state government has estimated river rejuvenation cost- Rs 1 crore for per km, hence the total estimated cost would be Rs 172 crores. If the state government feels it’s huge amount to spend on, the work can be taken in the joint venture of state and central government, since the river is national property, activist opined.
Demands of activist:
Removing encroachment of the river from Naviluteerth to Kudalasangam and cleaning river banks.
Installing of water purification plants at all villages on the river basin.
River water should be divided into four shares- one for protecting river environment, second for Hubballi-Dharwad drinking water, third for agriculture purpose and fourth share for Ramdurg taluk people for the drinking purpose.
Malaprabha River Environment Protection Committee should be formed for the rational distribution of water.
Story by- Ravindra Uppar