Vrindavan, 2017.07.03 (VT): The groundwater level in Vrindavan has dropped four to five meters and continues to fall rapidly. Most of the municipal tube wells on the bank of Yamuna have gone dry. These tube wells are situated between Keshi Ghat and Yugal Ghat. Other tube wells are producing dirty water that gives off a putrid stench. Submersible pumps in individual residences have failed, and the underground water level has fallen below 150 feet.
“The town’s tube wells are pumping out muddy water,” said a municipal pump operator, not wanting to be named. He added, “Sometimes black water comes out, as if it is pumping from a sewage drain.”
Environmental experts are pointing to sheet piling installed under the controversial Yamuna Riverfront Project as the main contributor to Vrindavan’s rapidly depleting water table. Sheet piling is a construction technique in which steel sheets are driven deep underground.
Surrounded by the Yamuna on three sides, Vrindavan is greatly dependent on the holy river for recharging its groundwater. The steel sheet piling has created a 25-30 foot underground barrier on the riverbed in a two-kilometer radius at the point where Yamuna flows nearest to the city center. The aquifer cannot be adequately recharged due to the civil work along the river.
Coincidentally, The Riverfront Project, executed by the Irrigation Department of Uttar Pradesh, is also under fire for threatening to compromise the architectural and aesthetic integrity of Vrindavan’s heritage ghats.
Ms. Charchita Rangacharya of Vrindavan’s Rangji Mandir said, “There is no doubt that the Riverfront Development Project has caused great damage to the catchment areas of Yamuna. The sheet piling activity is one of the reasons behind the falling of the water table. There are fourteen wells and a water tank (kund), in our temple. The water supply for all the rituals of the temple is largely dependent on the water of the wells and the kund. We have seen a drastic fall of water levels in both reservoirs. The bore wells in many parts of the city have also dried up even before the onset of summer.”
Shri Seemant Sharma, a resident of the Cheer Ghat area said, “If this problem is not taken seriously, Vrindavan will soon come in the grip of a severe drinking water crisis. We urge our local and state officials to offer a viable solution.” He added, “The submersible pumps in the houses located on the river banks have begun to dry up. The water level has gone below 150 feet.”
Shri Deepak Sharma (Ghatwale) from the Govind Ghat temple said, “The groundwater level in this area continues to deplete at an alarming rate due to unregulated extraction and relentless concretisation of the Yamuna floodplain. The sheet piling activity has further added to the damage, as it obstructs the Yamuna to recharge the aquifers.”
A letter has been sent by residents to the District Magistrate of Mathura with a demand to investigate the cause of the groundwater decline. The copy of the letter has been sent to the Chief Secretary of Uttar Pradesh, Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and the Central Ground Water Board, New Delhi.