Local people in Saharanpur came out from their houses to revive the River Panwdhoi, which has been turned into a drain following years-long negligence
The burgeoning impact of modernity and the gradual decline in the religious and cultural values have hugely weakened the traditions and rituals associated with our pilgrimage places, particularly the rivers, during the last about five decades. The general rules spontaneously followed by everyone about the cleanliness of water bodies have extensively vanished. There was a time when nobody entered the river or any water body without getting free from nature's call. It was also wholly prohibited to go for nature's call near any water body. Everyone had the clear understanding of all these norms, and they followed those rules without fail. But today most of our water bodies at pilgrimage places, rivers, ponds, wells etc.—have been turned into drains. A glimpse at the holy rivers like Yamuna and Ganga at many places does not generate the feeling of reverence. The Gangajal in Rishikesh and Haridwar is no more fit for drinking. Both the water and its purity are in danger. As the modernity is dominating, our understanding about perseverance and reverence of the water bodies is weakening. Not only the ancient scriptures, but the modern writers like Rahim and Kabir too reminded the people about the purity and value of water bodies, but nothing seems to be impacting the public psyche.
Mahamandaleshwar Swami Yatindranand Maharaj in the presence of Saharanpur Commissioner Shri Chandra Prakash Tripathi and others performing yajna before the beginning of river cleanliness drive in Saharanpur
Due to change in habits, practices, values and negligence on the part of local people, Panwdhoi, also known as the Ganga of Saharanpur, has almost lost her existence in the city. But the people of the town have a burning desire to revive their river. They approached the government agencies under the rules of almost all political parties, but the results were never encouraging. Now the people of the city have decided to revive the river on their own. However, several efforts were made to ensure cleanliness of the river during the last five decades, and it did not witness the desired change because of the non-sensitisation and involvement of the local people in those efforts. The waste and untreated sewage continued to be falling into the river. In the year 2010-11, Saharanpur Municipal Corporation started efforts to clean the river under Panwdhoi Mission. The then District Magistrate Alok Kumar and ADM (Administration) Neeraj Shukla took some practical steps. The campaign moved forward, but it proved futile after some time, as both the officers were shifted by the then state government. Now the people of the city have restarted the campaign with a pledge to take it to a logical conclusion. They came together and started the campaign on July 7 with the yajna. Talking to Organiser, Deputy Mayor of Saharanpur, Sanjeev Walia said apart from widening the banks of the river, saplings will also be planted and nurtured on both sides of the river.
Since the flow of the sewage is huge in the river, it has been decided to install high capacity STPs and release water from a local canal
Panwdhoi originates from village Sankalapuri near Saharanpur. Though it is a rainfed river, it had clean water throughout the year. Gradually, as the sewage of the city was added into the river, it lost her cleanliness and flow. Though concerns were raised against it many times, nobody ever took any concrete step to save the stream. The river passes through the middle of the city and is known as Sparsh Ganga. It is believed that the river originated about 300 years back following the spiritual efforts of noted saint Baba Laldas. However, purity of the river could not be maintained following changes in the habits of the people. "I have taken a bath in the river during my childhood and at that time there used to be fish and tortoises in the river. But today about 208 small and big drains fall into the river. The capacity of the water treatment plant installed at it is merely 30 MLD. Now it is to be enhanced to 108 MLD," says Dr Pramod Sharma, deputy secretary of Panwdhoi Protection Committee.
Local people during the cleanliness drive
Since the flow of the sewage water is huge in the river, it has been decided to release water from a local canal to improve the free flow of the river. Urban Development Minister of Uttar Pradesh has also sanctioned Rs 97 crore for laying sewer line in the city so that the sewage water being added into the river directly could be curbed. Two more sewage treatment plants are to be installed on the drains. The inclusion of Saharanpur into Smart City plan also includes the cleaning of Panwdhoi. The quickly and effectively the local authorities are responding to public requests shows that the drive to clean the river will reach a logical conclusion now.
The puja on July 7 was performed by Mahamandaleshwar Swami Yatindranand Maharaj in the presence of local authorities including Commissioner Chandra Prakash Tripathi, Yogacharya Bharat Bhushan, District Magistrate Alok Pandey, City Commissioner Gyanendra Singh, social activist Dr SK Upadhyaya, etc. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Shri Yogi Adityanath is also keeping a close watch on the efforts of cleaning the river. He called Divisional Commissioner Chandraprakash Tripathi in Lucknow twice and had information about the progress. He said the campaign should not stop without achieving the desired results. He also offered full cooperation in the campaign from his side. The Chief Minister wants similar public driven campaigns in other parts of the state too.