Photo: View of human chain from the Bagmati Bridge in Kupondole Photo Courtesy: Ashmita Kunwar
Most of us have been hearing about BAGMATI CLEANING CAMPAIGN for a long time. Some of us might have even joined in on the campaign, but unfortunately only few of us might be aware of what it is actually about. Let me introduce it to you, Bagmati is one of the holy rivers in Nepal. It originates from Bagdwar area, passes through different places of Kathmandu including Pashupatinath and leaves Kathmandu from Chobar. But, since last few years it is constantly mocked as one of the most polluted rivers. The beauty of the Kathmandu Valley has faded away as Bagmati got polluted.
Now, here comes the role of Bagmati Cleaning Campaign. Starting from 19th May 2013, few organizations initiated the campaign to clean Bagmati River. As the campaign proceeded, public support was augmented and the number of supporting hands increased. Every Saturday morning at 7:30, people from different organizations / households meet around Bagmati river side in order to clean it. Last Saturday, 11th March 2015, was the most special campaign day, as it marked the 100th week of Bagmati cleaning campaign. With the support and applaud I had received from my readers for my last article, I wanted to go out and cover this event as well because just as my previous article, it seemed like an adventure to me. I went to Kupondol early in the morning and here is what I was able to conjure up.
An OVERVIEW OF 100TH WEEK[caption id="attachment_6078" align="aligncenter" width="678"] Photo: A man with banner in the cleaning campaign[/caption]
The main objective of 100th week was to gather about 70,000 people in the bank of Bagmati river and form a human chain from Sundarijal to the end of Chobar (56 km in total) by holding each other’s hand. Another purpose was to make a world record - the largest human chain ever. When I inquired many people there, I learned that most of the organizations had made it mandatory for their staffs to attend it. The public van through which I reached Kupondol was also full of women destined for the same purpose. I asked, “Is it out of your interest to go to clean Bagmati?” And one woman replied, “We work in an organization named EVENT where we are given trainings to sew clothes. We will have attendance there; if we are absent we have to give skill test tomorrow.” Similarly, school teachers and students were to be fined if they did not come.[caption id="attachment_6080" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] Photo: Women from “Event Organization” moving towards Bagmati River to celebrate 100th week of cleaning campaign[/caption]
People going there had an obvious assumption that they have to clean Bagmati River, but after reaching there many of them were surprised because it was nothing as such. They were merely asked to form a chain by holding each other's hands; very few of the people were seen cleaning the river. The program kicked off with people singing the national anthem and taking an oath to help keep Bagmati clean. After some time, a helicopter started to make rounds just above the Bagmati River in order to capture photo of the human chain. The program ended at around 9 AM.[caption id="attachment_6081" align="aligncenter" width="440"] Photo: Helicopter that flew over the human chain to click the photo[/caption]
From my personal perspective, the large mass of people present there gave beautiful message that all of us are together to clean and save Bagmati; we are united for it. But, the day was not utilized properly. Besides holding hands, people weren't doing anything. In the coming days, it is difficult to have that big mass again. So, they should have utilized it by making all the people join in and clean the river. People were disappointed with this.
Now, let’s read what people had to say about the program.[caption id="attachment_6082" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] Photo: View of Bagmati River and the people holding hands[/caption]
An 87 years old woman reached there just after the completion of the program. She came to where I was standing and I asked, “Are you here to clean Bagmati?” She immediately replied “Yes, I am”. Before I could ask her anything, she told me to write her name in my notebook: Rekha Rana representing Shree Ganesh Radha Madhab Organization. She then, with her charming face, told me about how she is attached with Bagmati - “I am here with my grand-daughter in law Namita Shrestha Rana; she takes me anywhere I want. I was born here by the side of Bagmati. I played on the bank of Bagmati. I grew up here. I spent my whole life seeing Bagmati; I have a very deep affection to it. Still today, I come here for darshan. I live nearby, in Thapathali. In my days, when it was clean and pure, I used to come here most of the time to take bath and wash my clothes. I am very happy that people are cleaning it; keep cleaning, I too support you all.” After having a short conversation with her, she asked for my phone number, the website of our news and in return she also gave her number to me. This was the most delightful moment I had there.[caption id="attachment_6083" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] Photo: A beautiful elderly woman posing for photo with a smile on her face[/caption] [caption id="attachment_6084" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] Photo: Aama writing her name at my request[/caption] [caption id="attachment_6085" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] Photo: Pashupati Giri, Nepal Telecom, TEAN, Central Security[/caption]
“I am from Nepal Telecom. All the staff from our office are present here today. Nepal Telecom has supported Bagmati cleaning campaign wholeheartedly; all the SMS regarding this campaign is sent for free by Nepal Telecom. Co-incidentally, 100th week of cleaning campaign and Nepal Telecom's silver jubilee has taken place on the same day. So, on this special occasion of our silver jubilee, all the staffs are present here. I am personally happy with Bagmati cleaning campaign but today’s program is worthless; all the people are called here just to form the human chain but not to clean the river. Bagmati would have been better off if all the people present here were asked to clean it today as well.”[caption id="attachment_6086" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] Photo: Laxmi Bilas Koirala, Department of Information, Director General[/caption]
“This is a matter of pride for all of us. We all are here today to recover the lost beauty of the Bagmati River. All of us have promised that from today onwards we will never pollute our Bagmati; we will keep it clean. Today’s program was the best way to make people aware to keep it clean. The program has successfully completed for today, and we will continue in our coming days too.”[caption id="attachment_6087" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] Photo: Narendra Thapa, Kathmandu Upatyaka Drinking Water Limited[/caption]
“Useless program; if it was not made compulsory then I would not have bothered to come here. I thought all of us would have to participate to clean the river, but this large mass of people are gathered here only to show off. It is the decision made by Chief Secretary Lila Mani Paudel and we cannot defy him. But, I am not satisfied with the way today’s program was scheduled.”[caption id="attachment_6088" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] Photo: Om Bhusal, Gorkha Patra, Administrative Department[/caption]
“It is a symbolic representation about the power of unity and public realization about cleaning the environment. The involvement of people here today signifies that we all are ready to clean Bagmati. Today’s program is focused to make people aware, to give message to the world that we can do it and put our effort to clean Bagmati. All of us are welcomed to clean.”
Those were some of the stories and views of the people who were involved in 100th week of Bagmati Cleaning Campaign. No doubt it was meant to make people aware about cleaning Bagmati, but again, it might be difficult in coming days to gather so many people for the same cause. I believe, it would have been better if the program was planned in such a way that all the people were involved in cleaning Bagmati for about an hour. After all, actions speak louder than words.[caption id="attachment_6089" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] Photo: Nepal Security Forces at service[/caption]
People have been cleaning Bagmati for 100 weeks now and this has to continue until it gains its original beauty. And, in order to achieve this, those who are already involved should continue and those who are not should join in.
How can you, the readers, contribute? Don't you want to join the campaign? If not, it’s fine; you can contribute by not throwing your waste in the river. Stop dumping your garbage in the river; there's a place meant for that. If you continue throwing your household wastages in the holy river, then what good would be the 100 weeks (or more) of cleaning? By disposing your wastages properly, you are already helping Bagmati remain clean. Be responsible.
Those who support Bagmati Cleaning Campaign comment below this slogan “Clean Bagmati! Save Bagmati!”