Photographer Abhishek Singh travelled along a large tributary river of the Ganges in India, called the Yamuna. He captured life and activists trying to clean the polluted lifeline of these Indian people. Through his journey he sees cleaning rivers from the perspective of individual communities to that of a collective effort throughout the catchment.
As I look out over the Yamuna, I see the newly built pink coded Metro perched atop grey columns, ferrying unbeknownst passengers to far flung parts of the city. Below the bridge I see the emaciated river lying clogged and polluted at Kalindi Kunj Ghat.
Moving my gaze around, I observe a herd of cattle taking a dip in the river’s frothy waters, filled with toxic industrial waste. At the front, I see a huge stash of polybags edging the shore, discarded and left behind by people who still come to the ghats to perform rituals.
Rivers have always been given a place of respect and sanctity in the Indian culture. But when those same rivers look more like garbage dumps or filthy drains, I wonder if unchecked development has begun to exploit them to a point that they lose this fundamental role in our culture. They are the lifelines of the nation, and the future of India is in many ways tied to the health of our rivers.
Cleaning rivers in parts
The Yumana today has become the mirror image of our superfluous lifestyles, perpetuating itself in complete defiance of the nature and climate. As we focus on quick comforts and ignore their long-term consequences, we seem to be blind to the fact that we are risking the future of coming generations.
In the midst of this hopelessness, Bhavesh works for an ever-elusive change. Although disabled, Bhavesh has been traveling across the country to take part in projects to clean rivers such as the Yumana.
Every week, around 30 volunteers from various groups such as TREE Craze Foundation and Namami Gange come together to clear several kilograms of waste from the river. This movement is growing, and aims to completely clean and sanitise the Yamuna.
Bhavesh took part in their weekly event, which concluded with a discussion and brainstorm on ideas that may help achieve the mission of cleaning the Yamuna. This collective effort for a common mission has created an empowering platform which reunites friends around an urgent cause.
Cleaning rivers as a whole
The lack of clean water in Indian cities has made the revival of our rivers a non-negotiable necessity. River pollution is not an insurmountable problem and it can be addressed in a short period of time, with help of technologies and projects such as that seen previously.
What is needed to sustain this however are stringent laws and the necessary determination to implement them. We do not have to go and clean the rivers forever because if we stop polluting them, they will clean themselves in one flood season.
The solution is in cleaning the rivers – not in parts, but as a whole.