Adopt A Stretch with KPIT: Witnessing life on the banks of the Mula
KPIT volunteers have been coming regularly to the Rajiv Gandhi Bridge, Aundh stretch since the last 2 months and we truly appreciate their contribution!
This Saturday (December 14, 2019) started with Jeevitnadi river warriors orienting the KPIT team about Mula, and her rich flora and fauna. There were about 25 volunteers from KPIT. After the orientation, the volunteers split into different groups since there was a huge clean up task ahead. One group participated in plantation, tending and mending the plants, watering them etc with Sandipda and our gardener Sujan. The second group remained at Waghacha Ghat for the cleanup with Mrinal as the leader, along with our regular team including Sneha tai and Usha tai. They collected liquor bottles, plastic wrappers, and all sorts of junk which we get every Saturday. Everyone is always surprised by seeing this stuff near the river every week. Our warriors Usha tai and Sneha tai have become experts in identifying the brands and even cost per bottle.
The third group went towards Ganesh Visarjan Ghat. They had a few rakes and some bamboo sticks. All the volunteers got onto the steps. There was a very interesting phenomenon happening. There are multiple live contact springs along the river bank here. In this post monsoon season, like every year, the contact springs open up and start discharging trickles of water into the river. We have been observing this phenomenon since the last two seasons and are trying to keep the springs alive. However, this year, we have observed very little discharge. This is directly linked to the recent construction on the bank – a building has come up right inside flood lines. During foundation work, almost six continuous months of dewatering was underway. To begin with, we are surprised that permission was granted for construction inside the flood line. Secondly, none of the PMC building department officials stopped it when, as a city, we are going water scarce. We probably lack an understanding of how such things are permitted.
I showed the KPIT group the spring phenomenon and told them that the water is probably much clearer and less polluted as it looks clearer than river water. We needed to clear the discharge openings, which are blocked by accumulated garbage thrown by people on the steps. It has all sorts of organic material – coconuts, immersed ganesh idols, unwanted photo frames, nirmalya with plastic wraps, chhat puja offering etc. Right now, the river water is steady as the flow has reduced after monsoon. At some locations, the river has stagnant pools and is not flowing, so obviously all this dump gets accumulated along the stagnant water.
The volunteers were very sharp and quickly understood this. All of them got into the line on the steps and started clearing all the junk around those contact springs.
What was in this junk? We found numerous Ganesh idols (lying since September) with their raw material – jute & bamboo frames – exposed. This was mixed with many coconuts, garlands, and everything was entangled with plastics. This was creating more stagnant water. The volunteers separated all this plastic and organic content. They were doing the job of clearing the openings and segregating the junk.
They cleared all the organic content around multiple springs and a miracle happened! Baby fish started flocking to the openings where trickles of water were flowing out. It was a heartening experience for all the volunteers. We could see the joy on their faces, and their satisfaction after seeing life in the water with their own eyes. The KPIT volunteers witnessed that if you give a little support to nature, nature gives back to you. I am sure they enjoyed every bit of the action.
But this was not the end of surprises for us that day. After 2 years of continuous connection, something more beautiful happened that day.
Seeing all this action, a few fishermen came to help us and started cleaning. Until now, they have just been silent observers, though they know very well that this cleaning is going to help them. But something probably moved them too that day. They were suddenly appreciating our efforts. That’s a feather in the cap of RGB Warriors.
Ravi Pandit sir’s grandsons were also with the team, and took part in the action with full enthusiasm and zeal. The older one was very keen on understanding exactly what is happening, and I explained the food chain along the bank to him. On the other side of the bank, he could see a lot of bird activity – sandpipers, grey heron, egrets, and stilts. When he saw the baby fish coming towards the contact springs he asked me, “Aunty, are these birds going to eat these fish?” I said, “Maybe, maybe not. Because every bird eats different food and has preferences too like us. But yes! This is how the food chain works when there is a good marshy area along the banks. It creates different types of food, which is available for different types of birds. There could be larvae, eggs, beetles or frogs. And all this could be food to the different birds and these birds will keep coming if they get food. Now these birds will fly away after they are done. After they fly, they will need to sit on different trees, and what will the birds do?” The kid was very sharp, he said, “Aunty, they will help to pollinate! I said, “Absolutely, yes! Slowly, the forest will start growing because the birds will help pollination. Since there are different pollinators, they will carry the seeds, the seeds will get into the ground, and start germinating.” He was so happy, he said, “Aunty! I am going to write this in my school and share my experience with my friends and teachers.” I said, “I will be very happy to share this on our Facebook too!”
When we arrived in the morning, I was actually very disappointed at the sight along the river, as the river has slowly started going dry, and the water has started becoming stagnant because the flow is less this year. There is a new bridge being built upstream next to Dmart, which is part of the Smart city plan! When a coffer dam is built in the river, the flow is stopped. We have observed a drop in the number of migratory birds. All our developments are human centric, but when we proceed with those developments, we must always remember the innocent lives getting lost and hurt. It hurts my conscience as I too am a part of this thoughtless development.
But the experience of the cleanup was very satisfactory, and every river warrior enjoyed it.
However, I would like to end with this idea – why can’t the live springs be protected by rules? Why can’t there be a rule for no immersion in the rivers? Why can’t the PMC and PCMC be sued for untreated sewage being released? Why can’t housing societies and industries be fined heavily? Why is there always a blame game between politicians and government officials, rather than having stringent rules and implementation for protection of water and other natural resources?
Shailaja Deshpande, Jeevitnadi