Rivers in India have a special status. They are either holy and are revered to the extent that they are suffocated through worship or they are treated as dumping grounds where every gutter of the city or town dumps its waste without making any efforts of treating the waste water before it reaches the river. This way or that, the fate of rivers in India has been sealed. No matter how much the government talks about river rejuvenation plans, somehow, none of these plans have had an impact worthy of exemplifying.
It’s a vicious cycle. Rivers support life. This is why some of the greatest civilizations of history were discovered near rivers. The same ideology continues till this day. Most renowned cities are found next to water bodies or have rivers flowing across them. The problem is that the industries and residential establishments near rivers have found a way to comfortably dump waste into the rivers without treating the sewage or industrial waste.
The government already has several laws which prohibit these actions but these laws have not been able to stop the rivers from turning into gutters. From the sacred Ganga to the beautiful Yamuna and the many small rivers, lakes and ponds which once beautified cities across India, the pollution control board has identified a huge number of water bodies to be highly polluted.
Is there a way that we can save them?
Of course there is!
So why haven’t these rivers been saved yet?
There are too many hindrances. The first being awareness. People can see how the rivers are suffocating under the weight of wastes dumped into it but very few actions have been taken to stop or reverse such scenes.
Sewage flows in freely to many rivers in India and we have not been able to find a way to control it. Sewage Treatment Plants are not just an option. They are peremptory. But somehow, they do not make sense to everyone in India since several rivers end up accepting untreated sewage. When STPs are setup at every junction where sewage enters the river, half the problem would be solved.
Next is the religious significance of rivers in the country. The same river that sees the immersion of idols is often used for waste dumping too. Solid wastes can be seen floating in many rivers because of lack of catchments. The burgeoning effects of festive seasons when idol immersion takes place can be seen for weeks before the river could recuperate. How now can the holy rivers be forced to suffocate under the mantle of religion?
The life-giving nature of water has hence taken the form of a life-taker. It has become home to life-threatening diseases. The very river that lovingly nurtured life has remorsefully turned against the people who choked her; avenging her current state by spewing venom in the form of deadly diseases.
In some regions, all hope is lost when it comes to the revival of rivers. Jobs would be lost if factories that do not adhere to industrial waste policies are shut down. People will lose their homes if the government deals a hard hand on encroachers of land. But few are looking at the positive side of it.
Here’s what can happen if rivers, lakes and ponds are revived and kept clean:
Locals get a sustainable means of living
Clean rivers are home to fishes. Locals can take up fishery as a business and it can provide them with a steady income. Clean waters can also be used for smooth transportation across the city by means of boats. Beautiful rivers can become tourist attractions which can provide the locals with business opportunities.
Transportation through the river is another means of employment and also a way of entertainment. People can enjoy boat rides on clean river waters. Companies can use boats to ship products from one end of the city to another without having to worry about the traffic.
Rivers are life-givers and they will continue to be unless we coerce it to transform into a death machine through our acts of carelessness. The choice is ours and it always will be.