The Gomti River

The Gomti River, an alluvial river of the Ganga Plain and one of the important tributaries of the Ganga, originates near Mainkot, from a lake– ‘Fulhar Jheel’ in Madhotanda, about 30 km. east of the Pilibhit town in Uttar Pradesh at an elevation of 185 m. (about 55 km. south of the Himalayas foothills). The river flows through an incised valley southwards through the districts of Sitapur, Lucknow, Barabanki, Sultanpur and Jaunpur before meeting the Ganga river at Kaithi, District-Ghazipur, bordering Varanasi (at an elevation of 61 m.) after traversing 950 km. in south south-east direction. Majority of the surface area of the Gomti Basin is generally flat, sloping towards South and South East with altitude varying from 200 m. to 62 m. above mean sea level. For about 450 km. from the origin, the difference in the elevation is about 100 m. and for the remaining stretch of 500 km., there is an elevation difference of 25 m.

The characteristic of the river is perennial. The river is characterized by sluggish flow throughout the year, except during the monsoon season, when heavy rainfall causes a manifold increase in the runoff. 75% dependable flow in September has been recorded as 125 cumec at Hanuman Setu, Lucknow and 450 cumec at Maighat (after Sai-Gomti confluence), Jaunpur. The average lean flow recorded for the month of April, has been 15 cumec and 25 cumec respectively for these locations. The total drainage area of the river is 30,437 sq. km. Sai river is its major tributaory having drainage area of 12,900 sq. km., approximately 43% of the total catchment area of Gomti basin. Sitapur, Lucknow, Sultanpur and Jaunpur are the four major urban settlements on the banks of the river. The river, subsequently, receives the untreated waste-water and effluents from these locations in its course, through more than 45 major drains. Throughout its stretch, there are many tributaries such as- Kathina, Bhainsi, Sarayan, Gon, Reth, Sai, Pili and Kalyani, originating within short distances and carrying the waste-water and industrial effluents from different towns and industrial units in the basin. Besides Lucknow, Gomti River supplies drinking water to other towns located on its banks. These include Lakhimpur Kheri, Sultanpur and Jaunpur.

While each of the above towns pollute this river, the condition is the worst in Lucknow where most of the stretch of the river look like a drain. The river is under ‘assault’ at various points of its journey from downstream of Sitapur to upstream of Sultanpur, as it meanders through the industrial belt of sugar processing, paper and plywood industries. From industrial effluents to domestic discharge, the river becomes more of a flowing dumping yard for the 15 smaller and bigger towns- Lucknow, Sultanpur and Jaunpur, in its catchment area. The river is still somewhat clean as it cleanses itself through a natural oxidation process when it approaches Balaganj in Lucknow. Balaganj is around 350 km. away from Fulhaar Jheel. It is here in Balaganj that the British had set up a raw water pumping station– the Gaughat pumping station. The river meanders for another 12 km. through the middle of the state capital and then shrinks. The surging 25 big nallas and several small nallas fill the river with domestic discharge. Thus at Gomti barrage, the river is reduced to a mere ‘dead’ water body. The flow becomes almost negligible and the dissolved oxygen diminishes.