Monday, May 19, 2014

I would like to share the event that triggered my interest in the Environmental studies. We were visiting Kedarnath in the year 2004 in the Uttarakhand Himalayas and as we traveled up the narrow passage crowded with humans, mules and horses, the immense beauty of the sacred shrine gradually blossomed. A stark contrast was the scattered waste, all the way though, like an eyesore. I tried to pick up as many plastic wrappers as I could. To this, my husband said that I could better help the cause by writing about the environment as this would create awareness, lack of which is the root cause of such environmental degradation. The ideas stuck with me and as we reached the shrine the stark contrast of the snow-white peaks against the reeking pool of human excreta and Caracas that lay floating in that contaminated sludge made me weep in utter helplessness. The irony is that this constant abuse of the track can be easily contained as there is just a single track and vast manpower available due to presence of Indian Army but still the problem is allowed to fester. I observed that a huge glacier had rammed into a guesthouse near the shrine, people native to the place told that this was unusual melting and path for the glacier. What else can we expect, especially when such a massive assault on the environment is taking place? I was deeply disturbed and met the advisor to Government of India at CGO complex explaining what could be done regarding the Kedarnath trek. He laughed at my idea about creating a soak pit and using the gradient of the hill to direct the waste into the soak pit. Next, when I visited G.B Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development, I reluctantly broached the subject with Dr Upendra Dhar, who surprised me with a project report, which was regarding the creation of such a soak pit and was in cold storage as the government had changed on the wrong time!. Somehow this gave me a conviction that I was not too wrong about the solution for the great damage that was brought to the pristine environment of Kedarnath. Last year when the Kedarnath tragedy happened, I dug out this old mail of mine and was thinking that this should be brought to notice of people who care. Yesterday as I watched you Mr Modi, it was wonderful to hear of a Prime Minister speaking about cleanliness as Gandhi Ji first taught about hygiene wherever he went, best practices were taught in villages, that is a true teacher and a true leader who encourages change through practice, long time ago I had read that even a toilet seat used to travel with Gandhi Ji for demostrations in villages. While visiting Kedarnath and Badri Nath, there is a simple thing one can observe and that is- initially when Bhagirathi and Mandakini merge, Ganga Ji is pure and as she descends slowly it gets contaminated. There can be two approached to clean this beautiful river- one is to start where there is maximum contamination being dumped into the river and second is to start the awareness drive right from the point of descend of the river. There are products like degradable bags with urea that turn human excreta into fertilizer, which can be distributed on the shores as constructing toilets nearby will contaminate the ground water, which is a serious problem in Uttarakhand. With mobalisation of volunteers, the drainage of ‘200,000 crores would not be necessary. A lot can be learned through how Europe cleaned their polluted rivers. Thanks for taking up this issue on the first day of your public appearance after elections. गंगा गंगा, क्यों हो इतनी उत्कल छोड़ पवित्र प्रांगण इतनी विकल पोछने को दग्ध तन मन तभी कहते तुम्हे माँ देती हमें मन, प्राण, तन छोड़ सघन प्रिय वन तीव्र लांघती गिरी कानन अति विकल गंगा का मन मनुष्य दूषित करते तन फिर भी बहती सरस सरल भरती घर आँगन

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