Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Holy River in Kathmandu Becoming Sewer

The Bagmati is a river sacred to Hindus everywhere, flowing from Bagdwar on the northern hills of the Kathmandu valley through the heart of the city. It used to be a source of livelihood for people, fauna and flora living in the valley and downstream. It is still thought of as a holy place for cremations, especially the Aryaghat cremation site. Thousands of people throng to Pashupatinath, with the hope of taking a dip in the river and drinking Jala (Sacred Water) from it.

When they see the pollution, many of them, I believe, abandon their intention, although the river water near Pashupatinath has gotten cleaner.

The river, however, is still a repository for untreated sewage and garbage for valley dwellers. Sewage from the valley is fed without treatment into the Bagmati or its nearby tributaries. People of middle age, who remember the Bagmati as it was some thirty years ago, are astounded at how squatters have encroached on the river, how garbage flows directly into it and how the volume of flow has been reduced.

People carry garbage from their houses and shops in plastic bags and throw it in. In the same way, sanitary sewers also drain into the river. It is lamentable that so many Kathmandu households have not built septic, or at least settling, tanks, instead directing toilet outflows to the drains, which has very critically affected the river, making it like an open sewer. People living by its banks are severely affected by the pollution and say they have to live in its stench for more than six months at a time, except during the rainy season. It can be detected as far as 100 meters (328 feet) from the river.

Aiming to see the degree of pollution for myself, I visited the worst-polluted section of the river, from Thapathali to Balkhu, some days ago and found the situation to be dreadful. I then concluded that Kathmandu can no longer be livable and realized that we, the residents, must be among the dirtiest and least civilized people in the country, if not the world. But I hope these words and pictures will compel readers to think a little about the sanitation practices around them, especially before draining sewage and garbage into any river, and help the world become a little more livable.

Published: http://english.ohmynews.com/ 2006-11-15

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