Changing tidesThe energy generated by the Clean Bagmati Campaign must be sustained
Walking along the Bagmati river had turned into an unpleasant experience over the years. A river that many consider holy has been polluted by dirty tributaries and haphazard waste disposal. However, things seem to be changing, largely due to the Clean Bagmati Campaign, the brainchild of former chief secretary Leela Mani Paudyal.
Started on May 18, 2013, the campaign has eclipsed myriad plans that have sought to clean up Bagmati. This voluntary social initiative marked its 200th week this Saturday by organising a march along the banks of the river, from its origin at Bagdwar to its outlet at Chobhar. Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba, and CPN-UML Deputy Parliamentary Party leader Subas Nembang joined the march in three major sections, pledging support of the three major political parties to this social movement and cultural campaign. Other politicians, bureaucrats, security personnel, I/NGO staff, civil society professionals, and thousands of ordinary citizens also showed their support.
Exemplifying the importance of public participation in protecting the river and the environment, the campaign has garnered the attention and involvement of thousands of locals to date. This approach has led to the participation of hundreds of people every week, who gather by the riverbanks at the weekly Saturday clean-up campaigns and don gloves to extract solid waste. More than 140 groups are reportedly working for this movement. Their efforts have led to the extraction of around 8,000 metric tonnes of garbage thus far. That the campaign is bearing fruit is obvious; one only has to walk along the banks to notice the improvements and the rejuvenated currents.
Chief Secretary Som Lal Subedi has further invigorated initiatives by unveiling a 10-point National Sanitation Declaration and called on all ministries and government bodies to implement it in a sustainable and organised manner. Slated to come into effect in April, the declaration requires all individuals and organisations to clean their premises, surroundings and public places.
Addressing the ecological and environmental issues plaguing the Bagmati is of paramount importance, but the task is far from easy. Solid waste is just a part of the problem. Factories continue to dump toxic chemical waste into the river. Constructing sewerage lines, establishing and reinventing wastewater treatment plants, and letting the river flow along its natural course, as the government is doing with a hefty budget, are essential. The momentum generated by the Clean Bagmati Campaign must be sustained.