Bhopal- “We have been living here for 25 years, we spent our whole life in the village. The Administration gave us the lease and the permission to build a pucca roof. The Municipal Corporation provided tapped water connections, CC roads in the alleys, and now they are saying they would demolish our homes. If they had to demolish, why did they give permission in the first place? We eke out a living working as laborers; now we cannot afford to build another house. Sir, please don’t demolish our homes, please let us stay here,” pleads Pushpa Savita of Daamkheda slum cluster in Bhopal.
A few days back, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) ordered action against encroachments on the banks of Kaliyasot river within a range of 33 meters. Nagar Nigam officials have sent notices to more than 1100 individuals after identifying and marking encroachments in the no-construction zone.
Nagar Nigam officials have sent notices to more than 700 people living in the vicinity of the Kaliyasot river. Additionally, notices have been sent to more than 350 slum-dwellers. The residents argue that the construction of houses was done only after obtaining permission from Nagar Nigam and other agencies; therefore, these buildings cannot be illegal. The residents of the clusters had approached the Jabalpur High court to stop the action, and the court has ordered a stay in this case.
The Mooknayak reached the slum-cluster of Damkheda Sector A near the Kaliyasot river. More than 500 families live here, and notices for demolishing settlements have been served to more than 350 families. The residents are tense after receiving the notice and express resentment against the administration and the Nagar Nigam, questioning why they were given permission to build the structures if they had to be ultimately razed.
Speaking to us, Poonam Bichaulia, a resident, said that her family has been living here for the last 30 years. They were given the land on lease, and subsequently, they built the house after saving money by working as laborers. They were not aware that it would get demolished. She also questioned why they were given the lease in the first place if the place was within the range of the river. The residents conveyed their grievances to the Nagar Nigam Commissioner Frank Nobel A. on this matter.
The government primary school built at Kolar Road Damkheda Sector B is also found to be within the 33-meter radius of the Kaliyasot river. This raises the question of why permission was given to the school if the land was under the green land. Meanwhile, the corporation is yet to serve notice to the school.
Aryan Urmaliya, representing the residents of Sagar Premium Phase-2, revealed that a writ challenging the notice issued to the residents had been filed in the High Court. Subsequently, the Court has issued a stay in the hearing, temporarily halting any further proceedings. Similarly, residents of Signature 99 also took their grievances to the High Court concerning the notice served by the Municipal Corporation.
The National Green Tribunal, in a significant move on 11th August, directed the reservation of a 33-meter green belt along the Kaliyasot river. This crucial step aimed at removing encroachments before transforming the area into a designated green region. While the district administration diligently completed the demarcation process, intending to submit a comprehensive report to the NGT by 15th January, residents managed to secure a stay on the corporation's notice beforehand.
The issue at hand has been unfolding since 2014, gaining momentum when the National Green Tribunal (NGT) issued a directive in August 2023, mandating the demarcation of both sides of the Kaliyasot river. Following this, the administration took a decisive step by ordering the demolition of illegal structures and unauthorized constructions, with a mandate to submit a comprehensive report before the looming deadline of January 15th. In response to these actions, the Municipal Corporation initiated the process of sending notices to properties deemed illegal. Environmentalist Dr. Subhash C Pandey emphasized the imperative need for safeguarding the environment, including the protection of rivers, ponds, and forests.
In the vicinity of the Kaliyasot River, structures such as Sagar Premium Tower, Ultimate Campus, Bhumika Residency, Signature, Sarvadharma, Mandakini Colony, Shirdi Pooram, Amarnath Colony, and several others have been erected over the span of 30 years. The perplexing question arises: in a scenario where no construction zone regulations existed along the riverbanks, how were the architectural blueprints for these towering 6-storey buildings sanctioned? Furthermore, what facilitated the issuance of No Objection Certificates (NOC) from the relevant departments? These queries underscore the need for a comprehensive examination of the processes and approvals involved in the construction of these significant structures along the river.
The legend traces back to the 11th century when Raja Bhoj of Dhar found himself afflicted with a skin ailment, and no remedy seemed to cure him. It is said that, guided by a sage, the king embarked on a quest to establish a water reservoir filled by the confluence of waters from 365 distinct sources. The belief was that bathing in this reservoir would impart a radiant glow to the king's skin. Delegating the task to his experts, the king sought a location where water originated from exactly 365 sources.
Despite their search leading them to the mouth of the Betwa River, which received water from 356 sources, the experts fell short of the 365 sources advised by the Sadhus. At this juncture, the Chief (Kaliya) of the Gond tribe intervened and revealed a river flowing through the jungle with nine water sources. By linking the waters of both rivers and channeling them into a pond, the total count reached the sacred number of 365.
Thus, the construction of a pond in Bhopal commenced. The outcome was a joyous one for Raja Bhoj, as the water from this newly created reservoir proved effective in curing his skin ailment. The river, in gratitude to the Chief of the Gond tribe, was named after him - Kaliya. Over time, the pronunciation evolved from Kaliyasrot to Kaliyasot.
The legacy of the river carries with it an aura of mystique, as it is believed that the water still retains miraculous properties. Beyond its mythical origins, the river serves practical purposes in the region, playing a crucial role in irrigating fields and contributing to the bountiful yield of crops. The water from the river has even been found to possess nutritional value, further cementing its significance in the local landscape.
Story Translated by Pratikshit Singh