OVER the past many years, Puneites have seen the condition of the rivers and streams in the city going from bad to worse. The rivers have been deteriorating with untreated sewage entering them, in addition to becoming dumping sites for domestic waste, plastic waste, construction material, industrial waste and other garbage. Moved by the plight of the rivers, Jeevitnadi — Living River Foundation, a city-based organisation, launched a unique initiative called “Adopt a River Stretch” in May in a bid to encourage people to participate in river restoration. Jeevitnadi works towards the revival of rivers. “We believe river restoration is possible only through people’s participation. This initiative is our attempt to bring people to the river and involve them in the work. The idea is to create a group, adopt a river stretch for a period of one year, work there consistently, clean the river bank, check sources of pollution, assess measures for prevention, study human impacts, observe and document biodiversity, record changes and probable causes,” said Aditi Deodhar, founder of Jeevitnadi.
The first project under the initiative has been started on the Mutha riverbank at Vitthalwadi. Though the work began with just three people, now there are 30 people who have been working at the bank for the past seven Sundays. Many such groups working on various stretches will have significant positive impact on the status of the river and our knowledge of the river. Along with tangible results, there will be non-tangible but important outcomes like increased awareness about river issues and a sense of belonging towards river, said Deodhar.
With the word gradually spreading day by day, a school in Hinjewadi has expressed interest in adopting a stretch of Mula river, while another school in Ghorpadi has approached the group to adopt a stream near the school. The students of MIT School of Design at Loni Kalbhor would be starting work on Mula-Mutha stretch from August. Though the initiative has been launched by Jeevitnadi, other organisations will also be involved in their respective capacities. For instance, Sagarmitra is involved to prevent the plastic at source. Shrishti Eco-Research Institute (SERI) would be involved in implementing initiatives for improving water quality. Dr Swati Gole of Ecological Society has been providing guidance for developing the roadmap of activities for the entire year.
On Sunday, with an aim to involve young minds, as part of Adopt a River Stretch programme, Jeevitnadi had organised bird-watching and storytelling by the river, in association with The Story Station, an initiative by Vaishali Sekar Kulkarni which aims to generate interest in books among kids. “When I saw the riverbank at Vitthalwadi, I could actually visualise kids sitting on the riverbank, listening to stories. That image was so beautiful that I asked Vaishali if we could arrange such a programme. She loved the idea and participated. It was an amazing experience for the kids. One of the stories told by Vaishali revolved around a droplet, from water to water. She also touched on the subject of river pollution through the story,” said Deodhar. Around 60 kids in the age group of 5 to 10 participated, along with their parents. The event also saw Dharmaraj Patil, biodiversity expert and wildlife researcher, sharing information about birds and their habitats. Kids watched various birds, forest as well as water birds. The effect of changing water quality and the surroundings on birds were also explained to them.
“We also collected river water sample and showed how to calculate Dissolved Oxygen (DO). It turned out to be 2 against the desired value of 8 ppm. We explained to kids how fish cannot survive when DO goes below 4. The kids were also briefed about the hazards of plastic,” said Deodhar.