A peaceful river or a filthy drain? A place to worship or a garbage dump? Development that exploits or growth that preserves and sustains? The view of an emaciated Yamuna lying clogged and polluted at Kalindi Kunj Ghat evokes many of these questions, doubts and more.
As the newly built pink coded Metro perched atop grey columns runs through the river ferrying passengers to far flung parts of the city, this generation of a change in public transportation presents a starke contrast with the neglected Yamuna.
Move your gaze down below and not far away you see a herd of cattle taking a dip in the river’s frothy waters filled with toxic industrial waste. In the forefront, edging the ground, is a huge stash of polybags floating around, discarded and left behind by people who still come to the ghats to perform rituals.
Ironically, Yumana today has become the mirror image of our superfluous lifestyles which perpetuate itself in complete defiance of the nature and climate – focused on quick comforts and ignoring its long term consequences; a present that is to cost our coming generations their future.
In the midst of this hopelessness, drudging along for this illusive change is Bhavesh. Bhavesh’s resolve and front line work is revolutionary. Differently abled or a divyang, Bhavesh has not let his disability come in the way of his activism, and despite his many struggles, he has been traveling across the country to take part in many such cleanliness drives.
What’s more, every week, around 30 volunteers from various groups such as TREE Craze Foundation Namami Gange, SDMC come together and clear several kilograms of waste from the river – a movement that is gradually getting bigger and aims at cleaning and sanitising The Yamuna.
Today Bhavesh was part of the weekly cleanliness drive, which ended with a discussion-cum-brainstorming session as a way to come up with ideas that may help achieve the mission. Clearly, this getting together for a mission has made for a wonderful forum that saw friends reunite for an urgent cause, yet have lot of fun and cheers as well! What a satisfying day it was!
Just a few decades ago, Indians across the country would walk down to the local stream or river to collect drinking water, wash clothes, take a bath or just swim and enjoy themselves. Doing any of this is simply out of the question now, and if the warning is still ignored it may have serious health consequences. Unlike most other rivers around the world, India’s rivers – which have always been given a place of respect and sanctity in the Indian culture – have now unfortunately become polluted bodies of water.
But we cannot turn away from these rivers! They are the lifelines of the nation, and the future of India is in many ways tied to the health of our rivers. Fortunately, this is not an insurmountable problem and can be addressed in a short period of time, with help of technologies that already exist. What is needed are stringent laws and the necessary determination to implement them.
We do not have to go and clean the rivers forever, for if we stop polluting them, they will clean themselves in one flood season on their own. The increasing pollution, a decline in river water flow, and moreover decreasing ground water level in our cities have made the revival of our rivers a non-negotiable need of the hour today.
The solution is in cleaning the rivers–not in parts but as a whole.