There are a total of 49 Ramsar sites in India. The Upper Ganga River of Uttar Pradesh is among them and was announced as a Ramsar Site in November 2005. These are wetlands deemed to be of “international importance” under the Ramsar Convention.
Uttar Pradesh Ramsar Site Upper Ganga River has a historical value among the religious disciples. It is around 265.90 sq kilometers from Brijghat, Garh Mukteshwar to Narora in Bulandshahr stretch.
History of the Place
The Indian Epic Maharashtra mentioned this river place. The Ganga originates from the ice caves at Gaumukh (N 30º55′, E 79º7′) at an elevation of 4.100 m.
On November 8, 2015, it was officially announced as a Ramsar Site.
Access to the Wetland
Tourists usually visit this place via train travel.
There are two railway stations in the city, named Garhmukteshwar and Garhmukteshwar Bridge (Brijghat). Both stations are situated on the Delhi–Moradabad line.
The perfect time to visit this place is just before summer, especially in February and March, when the snow has just started melting, and it isn’t too hot in the plains.
The monsoons (July-August) are another great time as you can see the river in full flow, and the weather is pleasant enough to take a road trip.
Topography of Area
Upper Ganga River covers an area of 26,590 hectares.
In certain stretches, drastic changes in the river path were observed between 1970 and 1997, with the changes expanding to about 4 km from the original path.
However, in 1997 and 2007, the shift was comparatively small. The overall comparison, however, shows that the river channel is expanding. The obtained result indicates the fact that the width of the river channel is increasing while the depth of the water channel is declining.
Based on the results, certain areas were identified as ‘critical areas’ requiring immediate protection and management interventions posed by changing the river course.
Geology of Area
According to the geographical coordinate system, it is located 28°33’N 78°12’E.
In the Upper Ganga Segment (UGS) from Gaumukh to Rishikesh, the river flows mostly on a steep bed with an average approximate slope of 1 in 70.
The river has turbulent flow and high velocities in most parts of this segment. The habitat is stony intermingled with pebbles and sand.
Hydrology of the Upper Ganga River
The 85 km long river stretch of Upper Ganga and 2,073 sq km Hastinapur wildlife sanctuary cover parts of Bijnor, Meerut, Hapur, Amroha, and Muzaffarnagar.
The whole stretch of river Ganga (main stem) has three segments:
- A. Upper Ganga ≈ 294 km Gaumukh to Haridwar
- B. Middle Ganga ≈ 1082 km Haridwar to Varanasi
- C. Lower Ganga ≈ 1134 km Varanasi to Ganga Sagar.
The river in the upper segment flows on steep and narrow beds, mostly rocks and boulders that carry cold water is subjected to much less anthropogenic pollution. It has a highly sensitive and fragile ecosystem and biodiversity, and most importantly, is considered to have the potential for harnessing hydropower.
The water supply relies partly on the rains brought by the southwesterly monsoon winds from July to October and the flow from melting Himalayan snows in the hot season from April to June. In the upper Gangetic Plain in Uttar Pradesh, rainfall averages about 30–40 inches [760–1,020 mm].
Major plant species are seen here by researchers. Plants with impressive medicinal value can also be found here. This includes the following:
- Dalbergia sissoo – Indian Rosewood
- Saraca indica – Ashoka Tree
- Eucalyptus globulus – Tasmanian blue gum
- Ficus bengalensis – Banyan Tree
- Dendrocalamus strictus – Bamboo Species
- Tectona Brandi’s – Teak Hardwood tree
- Azadirachta indica – Neem Tree
- Aquatic Eichhornia – Hyacinths
Upper Ganga River serves as a home for International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red-listed Ganges River Dolphin, Gharial, and Crocodile.
The river is also a shelter for six species of turtles, 82 species of fish, and more than a hundred species of birds.
Islands in the Lake
Upper Ganga River has an intermittent small stretch of deep-water pools and reservoirs upstream from barrages. A reservoir is a lake type where no water is stored.
WAI officials said the river had evacuated its original course, and in certain areas, huge sand bars have formed and are proving to be impediments to navigation.
With the Ganga drifting northwards and the emergence of a huge sand bar right in the middle of the stream, river navigation has been affected, and the water supply to the Silk City from its Barai Water Works.
Economic Evaluation of the Lake’s Resources
This river stretch has great Hindu religious significance for thousands of pilgrims visit this place. During festivals time, many people come here for cremation and holy baths for Religious activities. Their visit economically helps the residents.
The plants seen around this place have medical importance—for example, Indian Rosewood.
Dalbergia sissoo is a perennial tree that is economically important for its value in forestry, agroforestry, and horticulture, can also be found here. It provides timber, fuelwood, fodder, has medicinal value, and is used extensively as an ornamental tree as well for shading, erosion control, and soil fertility.
Fisheries along the river are of considerable economic value, and their output makes a major contribution to regional nutritional needs.
Deterioration of the Lake Environment
The upper Ganga river basin has lost almost 625 squares of forest cover in the past two decades because of human activity. An enormous number of factories/industries like sugar, chemicals, fertilizers, small-scale engineering, pulp, cotton, and tanneries are situated on the banks of the river. The discharges from these industries enter the Ganga river directly or indirectly and pollute the river considerably.
Major threats are sewage discharge, agricultural runoff, and intensive fishing. The Ganga River faces mounting environmental pressures due to hastily increasing human population, urbanization, industrialization, and agricultural intensification, resulting in worsening water quality, ecological status, and impacts on human health. The dolphins face threats from poaching for oil and pollution in the river.
On January 16, 2020, a dead body of an adult dolphin with deep injury was found near Jalalpur Jora village in the protected Hastinapur wildlife sanctuary. The post-mortem report conveyed that a harpoon had hit the spine of the mammal leading to death. In October 2019, the forest department and WWF 36 dolphins were counted in this river stretch in a dolphin survey. Now the number has come down to 35. This incident shows loopholes in conservation measures as the area is earmarked exclusively for dolphin conservation.
The site has also been included among 130 sites across the country by the union environment ministry for protection on a priority basis.
Conservation activities carried out are plantation to prevent bank erosion. Training on organic farming land and lobbying to ban commercial fishing are ongoing.
In October 2018, The Uttar Pradesh Government prevented the Upper Ganga River Basin from complying with the minimum environmental flow of water. On the anniversary of the announcement of Gangetic Dolphin as the ‘National Aquatic Animal of India,’ the World Wide Fund-India (WWF-India) declared to launch a ‘Dolphin Mitra’ program for the protection of Dolphins in the upper stretches of Ganga in Uttar Pradesh.