Moving Upstream : Betwa – Introduction

About Moving Upstream:

The ‘Moving Upstream’ series by Veditum is an attempt to document the rivers of India, bringing out first person narratives as well as large scale data archives on the river ecosystem and life of the people of the basin. We hope to bring out this information to the public in an open and easily accessibly format. We’ve already documented a couple of rivers under this project, the results of which will be shared with you soon.

Starting with the Betwa river project in partnership with Datameet, we’re opening up this opportunity to involve more young minds in this project. This post will take you through a brief introduction of the Betwa river, following which you can visit the application page to read more on how to apply!

About the Betwa

The Betwa River, a tributary of the Yamuna, takes shape North of Hoshangabad very close to the ancient Bhimbetka caves. It then cuts north through Madhya Pradesh and then veers east through Bundelkhand before joining the Yamuna in Uttar Pradesh. The river provides water to Bhopal city and sustains a number of industries in the region. It also lies in a region that has come to be considered as ‘drought-prone’. In this area about 800 – 1000 mm of rainfall is received annually but the erratic nature of rainfall inter-annually has been detrimental to agriculture.

There have been multiple dams commissioned on this river since Independence, the first of which was built by the UP irrigation department. In accordance with an inter-state agreement between the states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh in 1973, Betwa River Board (BRB) was constituted under the Betwa River Board Act, 1976. Agriculture [1][2] in this region has witnessed tremendous change in the last decade, with monsoon uncertainties prompting an escalation in groundwater dependence. The main crop in the region is now wheat in the Rabi season, where it earlier used to be millets (bajra, barley, jowar) and pulses in the Kharif season.

Of biodiversity, one of the few origin streams of the Betwa river start from within the Ratapani National Park near Obaidullahganj. At Ramghat, a sacred ghat situated in the Vidisha town of Madhya Pradesh with many temples on both banks of the river, fishing is restricted in a 1km stretch. According to a study by Dr. Vipin Vyas in adjoining areas, which include a 14m deep pool, 48 species of fish were recorded. [3]

The Betwa river passes some very interesting historically important sites, including the Sanchi Stupa which was built in the 3rd Century BCE, the ancient cave temples of Udaygiri near Vidisha, the Vishnu and Jain temples of Deogarh, Lalitpur and the medieval town of Orchha, setup by Rudra Pratap Singh of the Bundela Rajput dynasty in 1531 (16th Century AD).

The presence of various settlements, monuments and forts on the banks of the Betwa re-emphasises the importance awarded to rivers in our culture. With erratic climatic conditions in present times coupled with social issues such as ‘Anna-pratha’ (when families let loose their non-milking cows and male calves), the challenge of survival has increased manifold. In recent times, this river has been of additional interest with increased pressure for the clearance [4] of the Ken-Betwa river linking project.

A deeper understanding of water use in this river basin we hope will add more perspective to dialogues on water use, scarcity and conservation. See details below on how to get involved! 

Apply for the project:

The first phase of our Moving Upstream: Betwa project, that aims to document the Betwa river ecosystem with a specific focus on people’s life along the river, agriculture and river health, is now accepting applications. We’re looking for young & enthusiastic individuals to take up this opportunity, experience the country at the grass roots and participate in the documentation process. More details about the application here: Application Link.

References:

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