River Beas Needs Attention

……and quiet flows the Beas (Photo by: Prashant Sirkek)

Himalayan rivers are the most picturesque rivers and a major tourist attraction as well. There has been a mention of the river Beas in the Vedas and Mahabharata. The serpentine river which starts its journey from Beas Kund in Kullu valley travels a distance of 470 km to enter Punjab and meets Sutlej at Harike.

Every monsoon, most of the rivers in the country go through difficult times as the amount of water flowing in them increases many folds due to cloud bursts, and unexpected sudden rains. There are other reasons for the amount of damage and devastation that these rivers are accused of causing. The main and most important reason is an encroachment on the river banks and unmindful construction in the valley. River Beas is the lifeline of Kullu valley, which has huge historical importance. If one follows the river from Palchan downwards to Manali, Kullu, Bhuntar Bajura, Aut, Thalot and finally Pandoh, where the river is dammed, you will find that the river is becoming flat, it is losing its “V” shape.

River Beas during the monsoon

People have started encroaching the river beds and moving into the river with construction. The waste and sewerage pipes are opening into the river. Most of the time the river is treated as a dumping yard for all the unwanted material. Most khudds, small nallahs and tributaries also contribute to the floods. Cloud bursts cause sudden swelling of the rivers. Beas is the only river in the north which has faced the consequences of deforestation, unthoughtful development in the Himalayan region and mining. The rocks and sand are constantly being removed from the river for the purpose of construction. If you visit the valley in the summers you will find enough tractors and JCBs moving in and around the river collecting sand and stones for construction, which makes the river shallow as there is no check on the current of the river. Micro Hydel projects in and around the river are also making the river more stressful. The widening of the roads in and around the river has caused serious concern in the past few years as it is making the ecosystem very fragile. Blasting of the hills for tunneling and construction of the highways has made hills weak. Deforestation has added to the cause. Most of the hills just slide down after a strong rainfall. There have been incidents where vehicles get washed away in the floods. A bus stand for private buses and trucks at the entrance of Manali which is made on the river bank got washed away in the floods. The Government has to make an elevated bus stand.

There are four prominent and historical rivers which pass through Himachal, Sutlej, Beas, Ravi and Chenab. Being a hill state, there are other rivers, like Chadrabhaga, Jispa, Spiti, and rivulets like Nyugal, Sarvari, Fozal and many more.

River Beas in spate along the Kullu-Manali highway at ‘Dwaada near Hanogi temple swells to threaten inundating the highway

River Beas needs to get special attention so that it can be saved not only from natural disasters but also from man-made calamities. The banks of the rivers need to be protected by raising fencing walls, which in turn will protect the shores from getting washed away. Encroachment into river beds needs to be stopped and dealt with firmly. There has to be a law in place for protecting the banks of the river. Beautification drives on both sides of the river can prevent tourists’ casualties in the season and their direct entry into the river for recreational activities. There can be some selfie points where you can stand and get a river in the backdrop, instead of standing on a big rock in the river and getting washed away later while moving out. Beas is home to trout fish, which is the finest freshwater fish. Illegal fishing from the river using any form of blasting should be banned. Plantation drives on the banks of the river should be promoted. Educational institutions in the valley need to be sensitized about the river, by holding seminars and visits to the river. Entire world is facing a serious climate crisis. It is our prime duty to participate in such activities and let people know about the crisis .

River rafting has become popular in the last decade in Kullu valley. The state government should make it mandatory for the raft owners and guides to have authorised rafting training from an institution of repute. Himachal Pradesh Kaushal Vikas Nigam has started such training in association with Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports Manali. Managing Director of HPKVN Kumud Singh is giving new directions to skill development in the state. Imparting training to the rafters was an initiative, which made many learn this skill and made rafting safe on the river. There had been many examples of rivers being cleaned, beautified and looked after well by the sincere public and private participation. Beas needs to be declared as a state river with huge heritage value. The river needs us all when it comes to saving from natural as well as man-made destruction.

Ramesh Pathania is a Freelance Journalist with keen interest about issues related to the Environment and Development

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