In four coordinated marches on Sunday morning, thousands of Mumbaikars walked to raise awareness about the polluted state of the city’s rivers and the need to rejuvenate them.
Water conservationist Rajendra Singh, known as the ‘Waterman of India’, led the march for the Dahisar river in the northern-most suburb.
Citizen groups, schoolchildren and local corporators, under the banner of ‘River March’, walked along the Dahisar, Poisar, Mithi and Oshiwara rivers. Former Mumbai Mayor Shubha Raul attended the march at Dahisar.
Mr Singh called for addressing the causes of river pollution. “Rivers have dried, died and become dirty ‘nullahs’ in the 21st century. All the rivers are ours and all the rivers are equal. Mumbai has four rivers, but the young generation thinks the city has four ‘nullahs’. How can we be healthy if our rivers are ‘nullahs’? Our health is connected to the health of the rivers,” he said.
The citizens’ march was a way to make the government realise their responsibility and the people realise their duty towards keeping rivers clean.
“The government has to change the rules and regulations to ensure the right of the river to its riverbed, flow of rivers and separation of river and sewer. Corporations should not empty waste water into the river. It should be treated and used for industrial and other purposes,” Mr Singh said.
Walking through the small villages and chawls flanking the rivers, citizens pledged not to throw waste in the river. Some carried marigold garlands, used in religious and other ceremonies, and exhorted people not to throw them in the river.
“The purpose of the river march is to bring Mumbaikars’ attention on the present state of the polluted rivers, to create awareness and then to work towards their rejuvenation and rehabilitation, ie, restoring the rivers back to their old glory, treating sewerage and pollutants and addressing informal riverine settlements who empty their sewage into the river. Many ‘tabelas’ are situated along the rivers. We have to identify and address the sources of river pollution, solid waste, industrial pollutants, sewage from our storm water drains,” said former Major Madhukar Katragadda, founder of the Oshiwara River Rehabilitation Regiment.
Various citizens’ groups had organised a meeting in January to discuss an agenda and plan of action for a river rejuvenation campaign in the city.
“The government machinery will function only when citizens don’t pollute the river. We should stop throwing garbage in the river. Only then can we demand some action from the government,” said Tejas Shah, coordinator for the Poisar river.
Mumbaikars organise a walk to raise awareness about the city’s polluted rivers