Need To Restore Past Glory Of Rivers

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The Kathmandu Valley is famous for temples, shrines and other religious sites. Some important temples and shrines are located along the banks of rivers. The Bagmati River located in the valley is one of the prominent rivers in Nepal. Important shrines like Guheswori, Gokarneswor and Pashupatinath are located along the banks of the river. Pashupatinath Temple is also on the World Heritage Site list and one of the revered temples. The Hindus, especially from Nepal and India, hold the temple in awe. 

Rivers are important not only from an ecological point of view but also from the perspective of sustaining livelihoods. They are a source of water that is used for various purposes. However, they are being encroached upon by man for settlement and other purposes. Population growth, haphazard urbanisation, disposal of waste into them and the like have polluted many rivers and rivulets in the valley. Further, extraction of sand from the beds of the rivers, building of settlements for landless squatters along the banks and construction of illegal structures have plunged the rivers into a sorry state. The valley has 57 rivers and rivulets as tributaries of the Bagmati River. The largest river of the valley originates from Bagdwar. 

Waste disposal 

Nepal is a country where rivers are worshipped. But human activities such as encroachment and disposal of waste have interfered with the rivers. As a result, the rivers are becoming narrower and narrower, making room for human settlements and roads. This has also affected the watershed of the rivers. The volume of the water in the rivers has also decreased with the flow disrupted. In the Bishnumati River, for example, there are piles of mud, rags and other old materials, slowing down the flow of the water. The river should be a glory, but unfortunately it has become an eyesore.  

The government formed a High-Powered Commission for the Integrated Development of Bagmati Civilisation to keep the Bagmati River and its tributaries clean and launched the Bagmati Action Plan in 2009. Accordingly, the Bagmati Clean-up Campaign has been in place. It is a matter of pride that the importance of rivers has sunk in and some environmental activists have joined hands to restore the past glory of rivers like the Bagmati and the Bishnumati.  Just cleaning the rivers is not enough. The construction of water treatment plants is equally important. Such plants play a pivotal role in supplying clean water and depolluting the environment. A water treatment plant has been built in the Guheswori area. Such plants are being built in other areas also. 

In the past, the rivers in the valley were not only clean but also wide. They supplied clean water to people and farmers used them for irrigation. They served households and the farming community alike.  With the passage of time, the rivers have come under strains of various kinds owing to human activities such as disposal of waste, washing clothes, bathing and bathing of buffaloes and other animals. The valley is facing myriad problems ranging from garbage disposal to land and air pollution to clean drinking water supply. The authorities concerned need to pay heed to basic infrastructure such as roads, sewage systems and water pipelines. 

Improperly constructed roads, sewerages constructed without considering environmental impacts and leaking water pipelines all have a deleterious effect on the environment. Water leaking is a common sight nowadays in Kathmandu. Sewage systems are not functioning well, resulting in waterlogging during the rainy season. It seems the authorities concerned have not paid heed to fixing such problems. Some so-called civilised people have a habit of throwing solid waste into the rivers. They also throw old clothes, bedrolls and other materials into the rivers. This has clogged the rivers, reducing their flow. Some people come by motorcycle or car and throw solid waste into the rivers. The government has banned such undesirable activities. Those who indulge in such activities are also fined. However, such activities have not come to an end. The people need to mend their ways.   

Progress

The Bagmati Clean-up Campaign has been running for years. There is some progress. The river has been cleaner now than in the past. However, other rivers such as the Bishnumati River are yet to be cleaned. All the rivers in the valley need to be cleaned. There should be a strong law against those who dirty the rivers. It need not be reiterated that clean rivers and clean temples and shrines along the banks could be an attraction for tourists. When the rivers are clean, the flow of the water also increases. So does the volume of the water. Small boats may be operated on some rivers. There are green belts on the banks of some rivers. Such green belts serve as places of relaxation. People can walk on the green belts as on promenades. What is important in this regard is keep them clean. Littering and dirtying such places should be strictly prohibited. 

The Clean-up Campaign should be given continuity. The campaign should cover all the rivers in the valley. As long as other rivers are not cleaned, the Bagmati River will not remain clean. For this, the government, the agencies concerned, environmental activists and even general people should work in tandem to keep the rivers clean. It is the duty of all to protect the rivers so that they can be restored to the past glory. This will help prevent them from turning into dry beds. After all, we do not want our posterity to visualise the rivers as highly polluted or as mere dry beds. So concerted efforts from all the concerned are called for to save the rivers, which have social, cultural and religious value.     

(Maharjan has been regularly writing on contemporary issues for this daily since 2000.)


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