Chitale Committee recommendations on Desiltation of Ganga

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Chitale committee on Desiltation  of Ganga has recommended a slew of measures which include study of reach wise sediment transport processes along with establishing annual sediment budgets to guide de-silting activities, Preparation of annual reports (Sand registry) describing the previous de-silting/ dredging activity and a technical institute may be entrusted to conduct the sediment budget, morphological and flood routing studies that would examine and confirm the necessity of the de-silting of the reach under consideration.

Background:

The Chitale committee was constituted in July 2016 by the Ministry of Water Resources River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation to prepare guidelines for desiltation of river Ganga from Bhimgauda (Uttarakhand) to Farakka (West Bengal). Shri Madhav Chitale (Expert Member, NGRBA) was appointed as Chairman of the committee. The committee was asked to establish difference between desilting and sand mining and also to establish need for desilting for ecology and e-flow of the river Ganga.

Highlights of the committee report:

  • Erosion, sediment transport and siltation are very complex phenomena. It is impossible to apply a “one-size-fits-all‟ approach to sediment management and control, because the issues involved are frequently very regionally-specific.
  • Local factors such as topography, river control structures, soil and water conservation measures, tree cover, and riparian land-use or land disturbance (for example agriculture, mining, etc.) can have a large impact on sediment loads in rivers.
  • River control structures (such as reservoirs), soil conservation measures and sediment control programmes can cause downstream sediment loads to decrease, while factors such as land disturbance (clearing of vegetation, for example) or agricultural practices can cause increased sediment loads.
  • At the same time, indiscriminate de-siltation works may result into more harm to ecology and environment flow. Thus, there is a need to evolve Guidelines, better broad principles, which should be kept in mind while planning and implementing de-silting works.
  • The committee says though de-siltation works can improve hydraulic performance of the river and this itself can justify undertaking de-siltation, these have no direct role in improving environment flow in the river. On the other hand, indiscriminate de-silting or sand mining would cause adverse impacts on river e-flow.

Basic principles of siltation in rivers should be kept in mind while considering de-siltation works:

  • Catchment Area Treatment and Watershed Development works, along with good agricultural practices and river bank protection/anti-erosion works, are necessary to reduce silt inflow into the river system and must be undertaken in a comprehensive way.
  • Erosion, movement and deposition of sediment are natural regulating functions of river and Sediment equilibrium of river should be maintained.
  • Rivers should be provided with sufficient flood plains (lateral connectivity) without any hindrance to the flow.
  • Instead of “keeping the silt away”, strategy to “giving the silt way” should be adopted.
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