Inspired by saving river campaigns across the state, college students from Bhiwandi are taking time off from their studies to come to the aide of dying water bodies in the city. To start with, around 50 students from Shree Hallari Visa Oswal College of Commerce, Bhiwandi, and students from other colleges, along with Bhiwandi Nizampur Municipal Corporation, have decided to revive the Kamwari river.
Bhiwandi, the state’s largest powerloom hub, has almost 90 per cent of the taluka’s population working in the looms. But all effluents from the looms are released into the water bodies. Kamwari river is one of the polluted water bodies in the city.The river that dates back to the 16th century used to be a port during the British-Era and was once a tributary of the Ulhas river and went on to the Thane creek. Once a big river that used to help transport cargos, has now reduced to the size of a nullah and is as polluted as one.
In March this year, college students had approached the civic authorities seeking a solution. Later, a meeting was conducted with officials of the Thane District Collector’s Office, Bhiwandi Nizampur Municipal Corporation and the college principal to discuss steps that could be taken to revive the river. Rajendra Singh, a water conservationist from Rajasthan, was also present.
“For the past 20 years, the condition of the river has been deteriorating. The industries in the vicinity have been discharging chemical effluents into the river, for around four months in a year. A wall had been built to separate the pollutants but it has broken. Hence, there is no control over the pollutants now,” said Snehal Dhonde, the principal of Shree Hallari Visa Oswal College of Commerce.
He added that the students have started the campaign by removing filth and planting trees along the river.
Bhiwandi has more than five lakh power looms and more than 225 dyeing, printing and processing units. Of the 225 units, 45 are large-scale dyeing and printing units.
“Over the past few decades, the condition of the Kamwari river has deteriorated and since November last year, it has been dry. Upstream there is enough water for the villages but as it enters Bhiwandi, it weakens and now, it has dried up,” said Akshay Patil, a student.
Yogesh Pawar, another student, said that negligence of the Thane zilla parishad and the municipal corporation towards conserving lakes and rivers has led to pollution in around 10 water bodies in Bhiwandi. “We will focus on the Kamwari river as the revival will benefit many. We will then take up drives for other waterbodies. As we have taken up this campaign, in the process, we have received valuable information about our city and its water resources,” Pawar said.
M S Shaikh, a geologist from Thane, said the initiative requires help from various stakeholders. “It is not possible to go ahead and revive any water body without the government’s support. They will have to ensure sewage water treatment and control plastic waste as it can deter groundwater from accumulating. It is a good initiative but it will work out only if other stakeholders, including civic officials and residents, also participate,” said Shaikh.
The students have collaborated with the Bhiwandi Nizampur Municipal Corporation (BNMC), gram panchayats of the nearby villages and other local government officials to save the Kamwari river and Ulhas Creek, which runs through the city.
On August 15, at the BNMC headquarters, students, the mayor and the municipal commissioner took a pledge to save water. A water literacy video was also released. The colleges and the BNMC have jointly put up hoardings across the city to spread the message on ways to conserve water resources.