Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Sahbhag's First Field Trip

At least 1300 crore rupees have been spent on a plan to clean river Yamuna in last 20 years, from 1993 till now. Result: River water quality of Yamuna River continues to be deteriorated “especially in its stretch between Wazirabad barrage at Delhi till its confluence with Chambal River in Uttar Pradesh (U.P.). High count of Total and Faecal Coliform, which are above the permissible levels, along with no or very low Dissolved Oxygen level in the river water is due to wastewater discharges in the river Yamuna, predominantly from domestic sources. The water quality of the river shows improvement only during monsoon period.” (Central environment ministry’s reply in Rajya Sabha, 21st August 2012).

Pained by the sorry state of the capital’s river and bewildered at the sheer lack of results after two decades of governmental “Action” to save it, members of Sahbhag have decided to consider the possibility of a people’s initiative to rejuvenate river Yamuna. To assess exactly how daunting a task this is, Sahbhag has launched a programme of a series of field trips along the entire 22km stretch of the river between Wazirabad barrage and Okhla barrage. The first trip in this series was organized on 12th August 2012. A delegation comprising nine members and friends of Sahbhag traversed the stretch of the river from near Nanaksar beyond the Wazirabad barrage to a little ahead of Monastery market, near ISBT Kashmere Gate.

It was an eye-opening exercise for all members of the delegation, most of who have been living in Delhi for at least 20 years. The observations from these field trips will be documented in detail soon, but a conversation is being reproduced here that the members had with a gentleman who had come to the bank of the river near Nanaksar to dispose a plastic bag.

हम: ये जो बोरा अभी आपने नदी के किनारे फेंका, इसमें क्या है?
(We: This bag that you just threw on the banks of the river, what does it contain?"

वो: कल मोहल्ले में जन्माष्टमी मनाई गई थी ना. उसी की पूजा का चढ़ावा और अन्य सामग्री है.
(Man: Janmashtami was celebrated in my locality yesterday. This bag has offerings from the celebrations.)

हम: अच्छा.पर अगर ये सब नदी में डालना ही था, तो आप बोरा खोल के इन सब चीज़ों को प्रवाहित भी तो कर सकते थे. बोरे के साथ ही क्यों डाल दिया?
(We: If at all you had to surrender these things to the river you could have at least not thrown the plastic bag along. What did you drop the bag here untied?)

वो: बोरा खोल के डाल देने पर ये सामग्री यहीं किनारे के नीचे नदी में जम जाती.बोरे के अन्दर है तो उसके साथ साथ बह जाएगी.इस से ज्यादा पुण्य मिलेगा.
(Man: If i had opened the bag and then deposited these offerings they would have settled right here at the bank. If the river takes them along that will bring us more divine blessings.)

हम: बोरा प्लास्टिक का है.नदी में रहेगा तो ये नदी के लिए हानिकारक नहीं है? क्या हम सब नदी में प्लास्टिक इत्यादि चीज़ें डाल कर नदी के नाश में मदद नहीं कर रहे?
(We: The bag is made of plastic. If it goes into the river it will harm it in the long run. Arent we contributing to the death of the river by depositing materials like plastic in it?)

वो: (मुस्कुराते हुए): गंगा-यमुना कभी नष्ट नहीं हो सकतीं.
(Man (with a smile): Ganga and Yamuna can never die.)

हम: अभी तो आपके इलाके के पंडित जी, जो यहाँ २५ साल से हैं, हमें बता रहे थे कि यमुना का अस्तित्व अब खत्म हो चुका है.अब वो यहाँ सिर्फ़ एक बरसाती नदी बन के रह गई है.
(We: The priest of the temple by the river-side here just told us that in the 25 years that he has spent here he has seen gradual destruction of the river's very existence, which is complete now. He feels Yamuna has been reduced to being just a rain-fed river now.)

वो: पता नहीं पंडित जी ऐसा क्यों कह रहे थे. हमारे तो पुराणों में भी लिखा है कि यमुना कभी मर नहीं सकती.यमुना अचल है.
(Man: Wonder why he said that! Even our ancient scriptures say that Yamuna will never die. It is immortal)

हम: पूरा बताइए, क्या लिखा है पुराणों में?
(We: Really? What exactly is written in the scriptures?)

वो: जब तक गंगा-यमुना की धारा, तब तक अचल अहिवात तुम्हारा.
(Man: As long as Ganga and Yamuna will flow, mankind will continue to flourish.)

हम: इसमें ये कहाँ कहा जा रहा है कि गंगा-यमुना कि धारा अचल है? आपकी ही सुनाई गई इस पंक्ति के अनुसार गंगा-यमुना के नष्ट हो जाने की संभावना को नकारा नहीं गया है."जब तक" का मतलब ही यही है.
(We: Don't these lines mean that civilisation will prosper only till the time these rivers will flow unobstructed? Isn't it implied that the rivers will die if not taken care of?)

वो (मुस्कुराते हुए): आप मेरी बात मानिए, गंगा-यमुना कभी नष्ट नहीं हो सकतीं. मुझे लगता है कि गन्दगी नहीं डालनी चाहिए पर ये तो पुण्य के लिए है.
(Man (smiling again): You must believe me, Ganga-Yamuna will never die. One must not throw garbage in the river, but what i just deposited was for divine blessings.)

Sahbhag thanks all members and friends who took out time to be a part of this field visit.
Sukirti Vinayak
Gaurav Bedi
Azad Alam
Aswathi Muralitharan
Bhawna Arya Bajaj
Ankur Bajaj
Bhaskar Bhatt
Charu Kartikeya
B Sanjay