Saving Yamuna: Doctors, scientists who turn trash collectors every Saturday
Every Saturday afternoon, a group of doctors, scientists and engineers of Delhi put their stethoscopes and lab coats aside to take up brooms, shovels and pickaxes. They then go to the Yamuna and get down and dirty to clean the litter lying along its banks. This initiative, they say, will not make the water of the river, bearing the burden of Delhi’s sewage, drinkable. The idea, instead, is to send a message about the need for conserving Delhi’s lifeline.
Every Saturday afternoon, a group of doctors, scientists and engineers of Delhi put their stethoscopes and lab coats aside to take up brooms, shovels and pickaxes.
They then go to the Yamuna and get down and dirty to clean the litter lying along its banks. This initiative, they say, will not make the water of the river, bearing the burden of Delhi’s sewage, drinkable. The idea, instead, is to send a message about the need for conserving Delhi’s lifeline.
This weekend, Vivek Dixit, senior scientist, department of orthopaedics at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and his friends from other hospitals assembled at the main ghat of Yamuna near ITO bridge at a pre-determined time of 2.30pm.
Shovels and brooms in hand, they got working and within an hour had collected nearly 300 kilos of garbage. The trash was neatly put in plastic bags and transferred on to a municipality tipper, that in turn dumped it at a community bin at Sarai Kale Khan. The tipper made three trips to and fro the Yamuna bank on Saturday.
“We know we cannot clean the water of the river. But we can at least clean the garbage strewn on the banks. We cannot always rely on government agencies,” said Dixit, 38.
The idea, which has now become a weekly feature, came up a few years ago. Dixit, then employed at Maulana Azad Medical College, while driving through ITO, would notice the eyesore on the river banks on both sides and wanted to do something. As the word spread, a couple of his friends got on board and decided to do something for the river.
“Earlier, we thought that people might think that we are doing this for publicity. It took us many months to decide before we hit the banks for cleanup,” said Dr Rishi Solanki, 37, who works as senior forensic expert at Aruna Asif Ali hospital.
From a group of three people, the initiative has now brought together nearly 430 people who join in depending on the need to clean the ghats.
“Most of us are free by noon on weekends. Some days there are five people and on other days there are 35 people. We do not stop ourr clean up even if there is just one person,” said Mayadhar Barik, 43, who works as a junior scientist in nuclear medicine department of AIIMS.
Earlier, the group would clean up the ghats randomly. But that did not fetch results as the garbage heaps would pile up by the time they returned next week. “So we decided to select one ghat to make a difference,” said, biomedical engineer, Rakesh Mishra.
To make sure the litter doesn’t reappear, the group has roped in a few local divers who serve as vigilantes. A local vendor has also donated a boat which comes handy in lifting garbage from inside the water.
The Yamuna is one of the most polluted rivers of the country. A 2015 report by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has termed Yamuna “almost dead” because of the filth that it carried. The stretch of Yamuna between Wazirabad barrage to downstream Okhla baragge-- less than 2% of the river length -- receives 70% of the total pollution load of the river, according to CPCB. In October 2017, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) asked Delhi government and the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) to explain why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against them for delaying compliance of orders on the Yamuna cleaning project.
According to Manoj Misra of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan and petitioner in the Yamuna cleaning project case, initiatives like these serve a great deal in spreading awareness but a lot still needs to be done.
“These efforts should be applauded. But we know it is not going to change the status of the river,” said Misra.