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For the sake of Vaigai

For the sake of Vaigai
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The Vaigai River pageant jointly organised by Earth Celebrations and DHAN Foundation brought together citizens from various walks of life and sparked off healthy discussions on how to rejuvenate the river

Holding discarded plastic bottles in her dozen fake hands, Amudha, a school-goer strutted down the northern bank of Vaigai, donning the Trash Protectress. “I am happy to be part of a great cause,” she says. Her friend, Manju holds green leaves and a placard displaying the ‘recycle’ symbol. “I am the Vaigai Devi, symbolising prosperity and natural wealth,” smiles Manju. Following the girls, a large posse of housewives, self-help-group women, college students, citizens and few big-wigs of the town walked a distance of over five kilometres along the river, holding banners that called for the cause of a clean Vaigai.

On Tuesday, the grand show of the pageant was replete with colourful processions of mulaipaari, water pots, Karagattam, Oyilattam and Kavadi. For over a month, the artisans of Kuruthur Village near Alagar Kovil had worked on the props, masks and other numerous elements for the rally. Prakash who has made a set of big and small 3D models of fish out of plastic cans and bamboo sticks, says, “It’s gratifying to see the result of the show. All our efforts have borne fruit.” Felicia Young of Earth Celebrations, who conceived the pageant, says, “I hope the people of Madurai take this first step to the next level by not polluting the river further.” Citing how her maiden project for the Hudson River at New York became successful with people’s participation, Felicia adds, “It’s a long consistent process to clean a river. Hudson was once highly polluted and today has beautiful parks, promenades and boating clubs along its banks. I wish the same kind of result for Vaigai.” At the beginning of the rally, the students of Fatima College read out poems they had written in praise of Vaigai. “The poems compare the past glory of Vaigai to the present sorry state that the river is in,” says S. Babiola Anna, who has written one of the poems. Verses from Thevaram and Silapathigaram, in praise of Vaigai were also sung during the procession. Pena Manoharan, a policeman-turned-poet who took part in the pageant recalls how he was abhorred by the sight of people defecating in the river on his first visit to the city in 1975. “Though, open defecation has come down these days, domestic waste should be stopped from being let into the river,” he says.

Mohammed Zubair, a student of DHAN Academy, hailing from Anand, Gujarat, compares the Vaigai with the Tapti. “Most rivers in India are highly polluted and there’s an urgent need to clean all of them.” Ashia, his friend, says, “The pageant will materialise only if people and the Government join hands. Sabarmati River in Ahmedabad is a success story only because of effective people-government collaboration. The city has a beautiful well-maintained river front.”

Along the route of the procession, residents living alongside the river, were honoured as river custodians.

“We have divided the stretch into 12 zones right from Kochadai to Viraganur and families living on the banks will be given the responsibility of maintaining their part of the river. As this is just a symbolic initiation, we plan to take up serious ground-level cleaning activities with these people,” says Gurunathan, the Director of DHAN-Vayalagam Foundation for the upkeep of water bodies.

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Printable version | Aug 18, 2018 12:15:38 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/the-vaigai-river-pageant/article7201729.ece