Mutha River Journey

Mutha River originates near Temghar, travels around 40 km to reach Pune city.

It is not only the distance it travels, it is the transition it goes through from a river to a sewage and garbage carrier, once in city.

Here is a photoscape of river’s journey, at Temghar, At Khadakwasala, Mhatre Bridge, S. M. Joshi Bridge, Sambhaji Bridge, Omkareshwar, Mula-Mutha Bird Sanctuary.

Painful & quite disturbing to see a beautiful river turning into a drainage canal. Can we call our city a progressive city? Is it necessary that ‘development’ should come at the cost of environmental destruction? Does it not show how ‘aware’ and ‘responsible’ are we Punekars? Can we ever become a great city with this kind of ignorance and attitude towards the river because of which the city exists today? Time to act…..long way to go……….

 

-Aditi Deodhar

मनोगत एका आईचं……

मनोगत एका आईचं……

माझ्या प्रिय पुणेकर लेकरांनो,

तुम्ही म्हणाल कि पुणेकरांना लेकरे वगैरे म्हणणारी हि कोण? तर मी आहे पुणेरी संस्कृतीची जन्मदात्री – मुठा नदी. आता हे जरा अतीच होतंय असही तुम्हाला वाटणं साहजिकच आहे. ज्यांनी पुणेरी संस्कृतीची बीजं पेरली ते छत्रपती शिवाजी महाराज, ज्यांनी तिची कीर्ती अटकेपार पोहोचवली ते पेशवे, ज्यांनी या संस्कृतीला समाज सुधारणेचे अलंकार चढवले ते लोकमान्य टिळक, आगरकर, गोखले, महात्मा फुले, महर्षी कर्वे, सावित्रीबाई फुले इत्यादी महान व्यक्तीच या पुणेरी संस्कृतीवर आपला हक्क सांगू शकतात. तुमच मत १००% खरं आहे आणि खुद्द मला स्वतःलासुद्धा या सर्वांबद्दल तुमच्या एवढाच अभिमान आहे.

पण माझं आणि तुमचं नातं हे थोडं वेगळं आहे. मी तुम्हाला त्या आधी आपल्या संपूर्ण परिवाराची थोडक्यात ओळख करून देते.

मी या परिवाराची मूळ स्त्री आहे आणि माझ्या आजूबाजूला पसरलेला हा डोंगर-दऱ्या-पटांगणं असलेला प्रदेश हा या परिवाराचा मूळ पुरुष आहे. आमच्या पवित्र मिलनातूनच वृक्षवल्ली, पशुपक्षी, कीटक, सूक्ष्मजीव, मासे या सर्व प्रकारच्या संततींचा जन्म झाला. या परिवारातच पुढे तुमच्यासारख्या बुद्धिमान मानवांनी जन्म घेतला. खरच तुमच्या येण्यानी हा परिवार खऱ्या अर्थानी परिपूर्ण झाला.

कोणत्याही कुटुंबात जसे हुशार आणि कर्तृत्ववान मुलाचं कौतुक होत, लाड पुरवले जातात, तसेच आम्ही सर्वांनी तुमचे सर्व प्रकारचे लाड आजपर्यंत भरपूर पुरवले आणि आजही पुरवतच आहोत. आपला परिवार अत्यंत समंजस आहे. दुसऱ्याला एखादी नवी गोष्ट आणली कि मलाही पाहिजे असले क्षुद्र हट्ट कोणीही करत नाहीत. आपापली नेमून दिलेली कामे चोख करतात.

आता बहुधा तुम्हाला माझी थोडीशी का होईना ओळख पटली असेल. आणि मी स्वतःला का पुणेरी संस्कृतीची जन्मदात्री म्हणवून घेते तेही उमगल असेल.

आज हजारो वर्षांनी मी तुमच्याशी संवाद साधायला आले आहे. त्याला कारणही तेवढंच गंभीर आहे.

मी जशी एक माता आहे तशीच या कुटुंबाची कुशल गृहिणीसुद्धा आहे. त्यामुळेच या कुटुंबाच्या भविष्यातील धोके मला सर्वात आधी जाणवतात. आज आपलं हे कुटुंब अत्यंत गंभीर परिस्थितीत आहे. आणि अशाच गोष्टी पुढे चालू राहिल्या तर आपल्या या समृद्ध कुटुंबाचा सर्वनाश अटळ आहे. मला खंत याच गोष्टीची आहे कि माझ्या सर्वात बुद्धिमान आणि कर्तबगार मुलांना याची काहीच कल्पना कशी काय नाही?

याही पुढचं दुर्दैव हेच आहे कि या परिस्थितीला तुमचीच बेजबाबदार वर्तणूक कारणीभूत आहे.

पुण्याचा परिसर हे आपलं घर आहे. या घराला नीटनेटके पणे व्यवस्थितपणे ठेवण्याचं काम मी अनेक वर्षं करतेच आहे, आजही करते आहे. आपला परिवार वाढला, पाहुणे वाढले तरीही माझ्या अफाट शक्तीमुळे मी हे काम अगदी ४०-५० वर्षापूर्वी पर्यंत विनासायास करताच होते.

पण माझ्या शक्तीलाही काही मर्यादा आहेत. तुम्ही धरणे बांधून माझा या घरातला वावर मर्यादित करून टाकलात. पूर्वी तुम्ही जबाबदारीने वागयचा आणि माझा त्रास कमी कसा होईल हे बघायाचात. तेव्हा आपला नात अत्यंत जिव्हाळ्याच होत.

पण तुम्ही मोठे झालात, उच्चशिक्षित झालात आणि हे हळू हळू बदलायला लागलं. आर्थिक विकास, उच्च तंत्रज्ञान, उच्च राहणीमान अशा गोंडस नावांखाली अनेक अनिष्ट गोष्टी आपल्या घरात आल्या. आणि तुम्हाला काही प्राथमिक पण महत्वाच्या गोष्टींचा वेगाने विसर पडायला लागला.

अनिर्बध पणे माझ्या प्रवाहात सोडला जाणारा मैला, कचरा, प्लास्टिक, विषारी रसायने, कारखान्यांचे आणि तुमच्या घरांमधले सांडपाणी या सगळ्यामुळे आज माझं स्वरूप एका मृतप्राय गटारात झालं आहे. पण याबाबत तुम्हाला कोणतीही खंत दिसून येत नाही. तुमच्या अत्यंत व्यस्त आणि महत्वाच्या गोष्टींमधून थोडा वेळ काढून कधीतरी मला भेटायला या. माझी परिस्थिती बघून तुम्हालाच तुमची लाज वाटल्याशिवाय राहणार नाही.

हे मी फक्त माझ्या वेदनांच रडगाणं तुम्हाला ऐकवत नाहीये. अजूनही तुम्हाला हे समजत नाहीये कि माझं मरण हे तुमच्यासकट आपल्या सर्व परिवाराच मरण आहे. या धोक्याच्या इशाऱ्यांकडे दुर्लक्ष केल्यामुळे मृत झालेल्या प्राचीन संस्कृतींचे अवशेष या पृथ्वीवर तुम्हाला अनेक ठिकाणी आजही बघायला मिळतील.

या मधून शिकण्यासाठी लागणारी बुद्धि तुमच्याकडे भरपूर आहे. तसच त्यावर कृती करण्याची ताकदही तुमच्याकडे आहे. कमी पडती आहे ती थोडी संवेदनशीलता आणि इच्छाशक्ती.

परंतु संपूर्ण भारतवर्षात सर्वात सुशिक्षित, सर्वात सुसंस्कृत आणि सर्वात सुजाण नागरीक असल्याचे बिरुद मिरवणारी माझी मुलं यावर नक्की कृती करतील अशी मला मात्र भरपूर आशा आहे.

सर्वशक्तिमान ईश्वर तुम्हाला सद्बुद्धी देवो!!

सर्वांना प्रेमळ आशीर्वाद!!

तुमची जीवनदायिनी,

 

मुठा नदी…

  मनीष घोरपडे

 

 

Mutha River Visit_29th March 2014

 


29th March 2014

Area: Mutha River bank, Mhatre Bridge to Sambhaji Bridge (Lakadi Pool)

Time: 6:30 am to 8:30 am


 

Today we started walking along the river bank near Mhatre bridge, at the beginning of the river-side road and walked till Lakadi Pool along the bank.

A stream with polluted water joins the main river channel just below Mhatre bridge. Near this area foul smell was prominent.  Open defecation practice close to river water channel was noted.

Today our aim was just to get a feel, explore. A detailed study with the help of the map is required to understand the stretch of river in this area. There is a variety of habitats, in-stream and on banks. There is a canal joining the river near beginning of river-side road, a stream, Ambil oadha joining the river near Vaikunth.

There is also a small stream joining the river just below S. M. Joshi bridge, which is being manually filled-in by the silt, reason for the same we could not understand. We spotted many wheel-barrows there, and their marks were visible on the newly deposited silt in the stream. The stream still has water. The information about this stream needs to be collected and reasons for the actions to fill it, needs to be explored.

There is network of sewage carrying pipes along both the banks of river. In-flows from these pipes towards riverside were seen at intervals. This may be due to leakage from sewage pipeline. At places, these open inflows are disconnected forming stagnant pools of water.  Such leakages are forming stagnant pools of water and also causing pollution of main river channel. (At one place in between Mhatre bridge and S.M. Joshi bridge, there is a pool of water near the out-flow pipe from the road, but there is no connecting pipe to carry it till river, so water forms a stagnant pool.)

Banks on both sides are approximately 20-30 feet wide from Mhatre Bridge till S.M Joshi bridge. Except for a few rock heaps here and there and manual deposition of silt in a patch near Vaikunth, the banks are covered with grasses and a few herbs.  Alternanthera sessilis, Verbascum chinense, Cassia tora, Chrozophora rottleri, Euphorbia sp, Phyla nodiflora, Croton sp., Congress grass (Parthenium sp), Polygonum glabrum, Solanum xanthocarpum, Datura metel were observed in this area.

Some Babhul, Vilayati chinch, Karanj, Shevaga, Singapore cherry trees can be found along roadside edge of bank. At the roadside edge of the bank saplings of Karanj, Garden Almond & Jamun were planted and plants like Lantana, Castor were also seen.  The river bank on vaikunth side shows Babhul, Subabhul & Rain trees.

In the stretch from S. M. Joshi bridge till Lakadi pool, wide concrete platforms are built. At two places, we saw cattle being kept and even people living there. Sugarcane residue lies in a large quantity which is brought there as a fodder. We saw a tempo coming in with sugarcane residue.

   

There are many natural rocky patches in-stream but some near the bank are formed by depositing large rocks which are covered by garbage heaps. Water Hyancith in some patches is removed but is just left on the garbage heaps and water around it, where it has regenerated. Wetland plants like Polygonum glabrumCyperus sp, Ludwigia angustifolia (Pan lawang),  Canna sp. (Kardal) were seen at these in-stream rocky island patches.

Stretch after beginning of river-side road after Mhatre bridge and before S.M.Joshi bridge is relatively clean, the water is freely flowing. Near S.M.Joshi bridge there is a lot of garbage and also sacs containing garbage, construction debris dumped on the bank. Garbage was also being burnt near one corner of river bank.

Near Nanasaheb Peshwe Samadhi and under an arc of Lakadi pool towards Alaka Talkies chowk, there was a pool of stagnant water, a great breeding ground for mosquito no doubt. It’s astonishing with a river flowing at such a close proximity. This stagnant pool of water was covered with a carpet of duckweed (Lemna minor) indicating pollution (presence of nitrogen and phosphorous).

There are pebbles on the bank below S. M. Joshi bridge.

The birds we observed included;

Aquatic Birds: Pond Herons, Cattle Egrets, Black-winged Stilts, Common Sand-pipers in great number in the stretch between Mhatre bridge and S.M. Joshi bridge. Spotted one Intermediate Egret near S.M. Joshi bridge.

White-browed Wagtails, Common Myna, Jungle Myna, Crows, Sparrows on near-by bushes, White-throated kingfisher, Pigeons, Lapwings were seen along the banks.

From Mhatre Bridge till S.M.Joshi bridge, Pond Heron, Black-winged Stilt, Cattle Egret, Common Sandpiper, Lapwing were numerous. From S. M. Bridge till Lakadi Pool, Pariah Kites dominated the landscape.

 

 

 

Mutha River Visit_8th March 2014

 


8th March 2014

Area: Mutha River Bank, Siddheshwar Temple, Near Sawarkar Bhavan, Pune

Time: 7 am to 9 am


 

Though we had anticipated it, the sight of Mutha river was nevertheless disturbing.

It would not be an exaggeration if I say we could spot water flowing in between floating garbage. It used to be a river once upon a time, now it is a canal, carrying city’s sewage and garbage.

Banks were no different, choking on plastic and other garbage.

Interestingly, spotted leafy vegetables like Laal and Hirava Maath near banks. Tulas was also present thanks to the nirmalya that is thrown in river water. Takala was also there in various stages of growth.

Many Pond Herons were seen on the floating garbage. Saw Egret, Crows, Pariah Kites, Pigeons, Common Mynas, White and Grey wagtail. Kingfisher and Wire-tailed Swallow was seen perched on overhead wire. A flock of Parakeets, a cormorant passed by. There were Red-whiskered and Red-vented bulbuls, Bee-eaters on the trees on the bank.

 

 

 

Story of Mula-Mutha

Our friend’s son turned 1 recently. We asked him what gift he bought for his son. He said I made a promise to him this birthday. What kind of promise, we wondered. He said I promised my son that on his 10th birthday, we would go for a swim in Mutha river.

River? This River? This sewage canal, the garbage dump that flows through the city? THIS RIVER you are talking about? Are you serious? Why? Of all the places, why the hell this river? Aren’t there enough swimming pools in the city?

He smiled and said there is a promise within this promise. I in turn promised him that this river will be clean by the time he turns 10. I wish to leave behind a “Living” river for him and his generation.

Our first thought was he is mad; does he have any idea what he is talking about? It’s a herculean task and he surely is no Hercules.

But if he is mad, believe me he has pulled us into his madness. Since our conversation, this river has been on our mind constantly. We started hunting for material about it, its history, transformations it has gone through and started wondering about why it has come to this state it is in. This river which starts its journey in the Sahyadri ranges and finally drains into the Bay of Bengal is more ancient than Ganga and Yamuna.

In the past, its banks had dense forests with animals like elephants inhabiting there. Like all civilizations, earlier settlers resided near the river banks. Some stone tools were discovered in the area indicating human settlements near its banks as back as 40,000 years.

Confluence of two rivers is considered holy in our culture and hence the city located on confluence of Mutha and Mula river came to be known as Punya nagari (Holy City), later Pune.

In the year 1961, Pune city faced devastating floods in the aftermath of Panshet and Khadakwasla dam collapse. Along with the loss of lives and sever damage to property, Pune city lost beauty of its river bank, probably forever. Even till then, banks boasted beautiful shrubbery and graceful gardens from Peshwe era. A survey conducted by Dr. Vartak in 1954-55, had revealed 400 species of flora, including some 200 varieties with medicinal properties, useful to humans. There were large trees, groves, farms and gardens along the banks.

Floods destroyed these gardens and the silt they carried got deposited on banks that provided breeding ground to mosquitos. Prior to this incidence, Pune city was not infected with mosquitos, which is now really hard to believe.

From October 1982 to March 1983, Ecological Society conducted a survey in the same area to understand the situation then. Survey was based on parameters like water quality, pollution level, flora and fauna in and around river water and banks, land use pattern of river banks etc.

Ambil and Nagzari streams have dense populations on the banks and hence bring a lot of polluted water which they drain into Mutha near Dattawadi. From this point till its confluence with Mula, what Mutha carries is really sewage water not suitable for any kind of use. River banks once green and beautiful are mere garbage dumps now.

Waters of Mula is equally polluted if not more. Pavana, a tributary to Mula brings with it pollution from the industrial belt of Pimpri and Chinchwad.

Polluted water contains less of oxygen which affects flora and fauna. Only those plants and insects that can survive in lesser proportion of oxygen flourish here. Such plants mostly are what we call weed. They are useful neither to humans nor to cattle. The biodiversity that Dr. Vartak had observed and noted in 1954-55 was almost gone by the time of survey by Ecological Society, and situation would be more tragic now.

Mutha_Near_Siddheshwar_Temple_2

 

Even the fish found in the river is not of good quality. It is hard to imagine now but once upon a time, fishery used to be a major activity on this river. Now fish, big enough and suitable to eat are found only for a short time period, right after monsoon. Depleting levels of oxygen kill off fish in large numbers.

Birds act as indicators of health of ecosystem. Unlike flora, they are mobile and they can move to areas favorable to them easily, compared to other animals. When ecosystem conditions change, the birds adversely affected move away and that niche is occupied by those species for which new conditions are favorable. With changing water quality of Mutha, the bird species that can be observed in and around the river have changed. Birds like Egret, Stilt, Pond Heron, Wagtails, Cormorants that eat worms and insects flourishing in sewage water have increased. They especially are seen in large numbers where Ambil and Nagzari streams merge into Mutha. Kingfisher is not as abundant as it used to be since it needs clear water to spot fish from a height. Even the migratory ducks here are those that survive on the insects on or near water surface. The ones that dive into water to catch insects or eat plants no longer visit. Plants that need clean water are gone and so the birds that survive on them like Jacana (kamalpakshi) and Water hen (pankombadi).

Aldo Leopold writes in Sand County Almanac, “There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.”

In that quote lies the reason why we are so indifferent to our river, whose very water we depend on for our survival.

As the settlements started growing around, the river was the only source of water.  In the 18th century, under the reign of Nanasaheb Peshwe, first well was dug. Eventually all major ministers in the Peshwedarbaar had well in the court yard of their residence. This reduced people’s direct dependence on river for drinking water, though washing clothes and utensils in river water continued.

Almost all residences (Wada) had their own well by the time of Sawai Madhavrao Peshwe, i.e. late 18th century. In his era itself, under the guidance of Nana Phadanwis, water from streams near Katraj and Kondhwe was brought into the city though an intrinsic network of underground canals. This reduced daily contact Pune residents had with the river water. The year 1860 brought a major change to this city when the British declared Pune as their “Monsoon Capital”. British Governor started residing in the city and Mutha River saw a major transformation in the form of Khadakwasala dam. Dam construction was complete by 1879 and through the right canal water was transferred to the Water Purification Centre to be distributed to the city. Now water requirements were fulfilled completely through dam reservoir. River became only a water body which one occasionally comes across while crossing the bridge. Now with fast paced life where crossing the bridge is merely going from one signal to the other, the existence of river underneath is forgotten. An exceptional heavy monsoon some year provides a glimpse of what this river would have been once, but that lease of life is really short-lived.

Disconnect towards this very vital resource breeds indifference towards it. The settlers who went to river every day to fetch drinking water could have littered the bank and water? Wouldn’t they have been worried about changing flora and fauna of river? Wouldn’t they be sensitive to these indicators of nature? Wouldn’t they have wondered what they should do to ensure a living river for their future generations?

Unfortunately this is not a story of a river; it is the story of almost every river in India.

Easter Islanders cut down all the trees, which were vital for their survival. What the islander that cut down that last tree must have thought? Or he did not know it was the last tree until all the tree cover was gone? What he must have thought in the retrospect? Will he do the same thing again if he has to do it all over again?

What is the relevance of Easter Island story with the story of our river? Are we down to that ’last tree’ as far as the river is concerned? Is my friend totally unreasonable in supposing he can do something to revive it? And if not, what should we be doing?

 – Aditi Deodhar

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Reference:

Prakash Gole, Ranawa

Avinash Sovani, Ek Dubaki Muthechya Itihasaat, Maze Punyabhushan, Diwali 2013

Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed