Citizen activists under the banner of River March organised a massive clean-up drive at the Dahisar river on Sunday morning. Titled ‘Swachh Nadi Abhiyan’, the drive saw the participation of around 400 participants, who included Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) workers, elected officials, activists and citizens with various occupations and of different economic classes. The event was spearheaded by the ‘Waterman of India’, Dr. Rajendra Singh.
The organisers reported that over 3000kg of waste — including plastic bags, plastic fragments, glass bottles and other miscellaneous items — was collected from the riverbed. The volunteers were provided with masks, gloves and a stick to pick up the trash.
The Dahisar river is fraught with problems since household sewage is being continually emptied into its bed, which is now almost completely dry and filled with construction waste or pollutants disposed of by the dhobis and other people living around it. The river, which has water only till the borders of Sanjay Gandhi National Park and not beyond, is now referred to as a sewer by many people.
Large machines operate on the riverbed to build walls on both banks of the river, a preventive measure for floods, which, according to Singh, lacks foresight. “A river is characterised by its freely-flowing water. The Dahisar river requires banks and a catchment area, so, essentially, building walls would amount to interfering with nature,” said the water conservationist who transformed Alwar district in Rajasthan from its erstwhile barren condition.
“We require separation of a river and a sewer, and a sewer and the sea,” he added, saying that desalination and river-linking would not solve the water crisis. Citing solutions to the problem, he said,” The government should focus on either treating or diverting the sewage being poured into this freshwater body, while the community can take up initiatives to create awareness about the river. A community-led effort is the way to go.”
Advocate Bhagyashree Mahale, who volunteered for the cause, said: “What I really loved about this movement was that some of the volunteers were as young as seven years old and some were as aged as 85, and all belonged to different socio-economic classes. River March is an active group that actually creates an impact, unlike many others in this field.”