Keeping the environment clean is everybody’s business as is reviving urban water bodies including lakes and rivers, says S. Vishwanath

Rivers are the birthplace of civilisation, and civilisation, the graveyard for rivers, is a very famous quote which rings true in present day India. As the Ganesha festival approaches, those who work on keeping water bodies clean are filled with a feeling of dread, for, the modern-day reveller will bring large statues painted usually with toxic lead paint and immerse them in wells, tanks, lakes and rivers, not to mention the sea.

Why is it that we have become dissociated from our spiritual practice and everyday life? Why is it that we refuse to see the links between ‘what we believe in and what we end up doing’ and understand it as an exercise in sociology and human behaviour?

The Vrishabhavati is the only river that originates in Bangalore. One saying in Kannada reads, ‘Do not go hunting for the source of a river or the antecedents of a sage.’ As much as the Cauvery is supposed to originate at Talacauvery, and the Ganga at Gangotri, the Vrishabhavati is said to originate at the famous Bull Temple in Basavanagudi. That which originates from the mouth of a bull – Vrishabh being the bull – is a name given to the river on this belief. The temple and hence the river at its source is a place of worship.

The desecration of the river begins almost immediately. Sewage and garbage are the components of the desecration of what was once a pristine river and this is the gift of urban Bangalore to the river.

By the time it flows out of the city to a magnificently large reservoir at Bhairamangala it is dark, black foamy water polluted beyond redemption. Yet nature tackles the river as do thousands of farmers forced to use this water for their crops and for their livelihoods. A slow transformation of the water begins and in about 20 km the river is partially redeemed. The water that flows then to join the Arkavathy is cleaner. This is called the absorption capacity or the cleaning capacity of nature.

What can apartments do

For one, make arrangements for the Ganesha immersion. Make sure that with due sanctity and respect the whole event is conducted with no net negative impact on the environment.

In many tanks across Bangalore separate kalyanis have been built to receive the idols and the flowers that come with them. These are then kept clean and prevent pollution of the larger water body. Make use of these. Better still make small Ganeshas without paint so that they dissolve in waters without much trace.

Many apartments are now mandated to have their own sewage treatment plants. Make sure that the ones you have are in working condition and treat the water to adequate levels as prescribed. In negotiations with the State Pollution Control Board the treated waste-water can perhaps be released into neighbouring lakes through a constructed wetland. This will not only clean the water up further but keep the lakes full and away from encroachment.

Engage with garbage including segregation. Clear collection and then transportation to the designated treatment sites. The joy of clean flowing water or a full lake is an experience that all, especially children, deserve and making that happen in our times is the challenge.

That challenge being addressed would be water wisdom.

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