Bringing the Bagmati river back to life is indeed a Herculean challenge. The holy river of the Hindus, which originates at Bagdwar in the Shivapuri hills, is nauseatingly dirty. As it snakes its way through the Kathmandu Valley, the river collects all manner of sewage, trash, and debris, thus becoming not much better than a sewer.
Nevertheless, organised efforts to rescue this major cradle of the Kathmandu Valley civilization are going on with much vibrancy and vigour. The 1ooth week of Bagmati Mega Cleaning Campaign was marked last week with the enthusiastic participation of thousands of people.
During the event, at least a 100,000 people linked their hands to form a human chain spanning the entire length of Bagmati river inside the valley.
Such chain consisted of Prime Minister, Chief Justice, CA Chairman, ministers, political leaders, security personnel, government employees, educational institutions, various NGOs and common folks.
The Campaign, the brainchild of Chief Secretary Leela Mani Paudyal, is helping gradually refashion the pathetically filthy state of the river for the better.
The is one of the mega initiatives ever taken in the country to clean up the Bagmati River, dogged by pollution and toxic chemicals flowing into it.
Thanks to the campaign, the river, albeit not totally revitalised, is getting cleaner and does not stink that bad.
Since it began on May 18, 2013, the campaign has so far removed 90 percent i.e 3,096 metric tonnes of solid waste from the river.
Till three decades back, the denizens of the valley used to use the water in the river for drinking purpose. The elderly people still fondly recall their experiences of taking dips and swim in it. The river system in the valley started to do downhill due to over concentration of the population, haphazard urbanization and industrialization.
The gradual deterioration of the Bagmati river has much to do with the gross carelessness on the part of state authorities. They have long been lackadaisical to come up with concrete plans to clean up the Bagmati and its tributaries that used to supply water for irrigation and drinking purposes to the people in the past.
Foxy land mafias are encroaching upon the river banks in connivance with people in the land revenue offices. The landless people have been allowed by the government itself to settle on the banks of all rivers in the Valley. Such anomalies have caused much difficulty in developing a drainage system to keep all the rivers clean.
The current campaign alone will not be sufficient to materialise the quest to revive the old glory of the Bagmati. Treating the river’s waters to remove sewage and the associated chemical and biological hazards are amongst the steps that are mandatory in this regard. Similarly, the practice of releasing the household drains directly down into the river need to be stopped up and redirected at the soonest.
A Bill to discourage the practice of linking the drainage directly into the rivers, lakes and ponds or throwing garbage into them is the need of the hour.