Save Doodh Ganga

Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat
Around a decade back United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in a historic resolution recognized safe water and sanitation as one of the basic human rights. Among 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which is a 15 year agenda (2015-2030) adopted by the UN in 2015 availability of clean water and better sanitation is an important constituent of it. Having spent my childhood around Doodh Ganga (also called Chaz Kull in Kashmiri) and being a frequent traveler to the glaciers of Pir Panjaal where from it originates, I feel distressed and disturbed when I pass through the banks of this river near my ancestral village Wathoora or the nearby town of Chadoora. I remember how audacious and daring it was for us in summer months as kids to swim in Doodh Ganga and to take sun bath on its banks where there used to be heaps of fine sand. River DoodhGanga is a tributary of the Jhelum that flows from upper reaches of Yusmarg called Chazken Naad, Lidermarg. The river originates from PirPanjal glaciers near Tatakoti mountain peak.
My tryst with Doodh Ganga
Today when my 7 years old son Ubaid questions me “Baba how you learnt swimming” I feel proud of Doodh Ganga. On several occasions I have told Ubaid stories related to bathing and swimming in Doodh Ganga. I still remember how I along with my village friends used to enjoy in the clean waters of this river 25 to 30 years back. I can’t forget the long and high jumps that myself and other kids used to attempt from the banks of this river. Ubaid who is a class III student at Tyndale Biscoe School Srinagar becomes excited after listening to all the stories of past. When I tell my son I became a swimmer in my school (Tyndale Biscoe) in class III, he becomes really upset because he is still a non-swimmer ?Doodh Ganga helped me to learn the art of swimming and that was reason I passed basic swimming test at a very tender age in the year 1985. When I tell my son I passed my basic swimming test in the same class at Biscoe school, Ubaid turns frantic I still remember we were only three swimmers in class IIIrd and by the time we got promoted to class IV, the number of swimmers rase to 10 out of 40. My son yells at me and questions me “why can’t I pass swimming test , why can’t I swim in Doodh Ganga (chazkull) ?”
I don’t know whether he will successfully cross the school swimming test or not this year, but I am sure for one thing that Ubaid won’t be able to swim in Doodh Ganga at least ? The reason is that Doodh Ganga is no more a river of milk , it has been turned into a drain (Kali Ganga) and dumping site of solid and liquid waste.Today, as we claim to have become advanced and educated, my head bows down in shame when I see all the filth finding its way into Doodh Ganga. The worst part of it is that this polluted water continues to be lifted at Doodh Ganga water treatment plant located at Kralpora on the outskirts of Srinagar. This water is then supplied to a huge population in Srinagar uptown.
Water supplied from Doodh Ganga
More than 45 years ago, the Doodh Ganga water treatment plant was commissioned at Kralpora. Three more units were added to this plant later. Most of the solid and liquid waste generated in one dozen villages and Chadoora town right from Branwar to Kralpora via Surasyar, Dadompora, Kralwari, Sogam, Chadoora, Hanji Gund, Wathoora and Kralpora enters into Doodh Ganga. In addition, several lavatories also have outlets that enter into it. Ironically, the same water is lifted and treated at water filtration plant at Kralpora and then supplied to more than 8 lakh population in 5 dozen localities and colonies around Srinagar uptown especially areas like Hyderpora, PirBagh, Huhmama, Rawalpora, Chanapora, Bagh-e-Mehtab, Kralpora, Jawahar Nagar and Batamaloo etc. As a consumer, I tried to ask the Public Health Engineering department (PHE) whether chlorination and filtration at Kralpora plant can make Doodh Ganga water safe for drinking ? They failed to respond and I was forced to file a complaint before the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC). I have sought SHRC’s intervention and they have already sent notices to Commissioner / Secretary PHE , Deputy Commissioner, Budgam and Principal Government Medical College, Srinagar. I am not blaming the Government alone but we all are collectively responsible for this mess. Had our planners and engineers set up Doodh Ganga plant in the upper reaches of Chadoora in early 70s, the situation would have been different today . Had scientific waste management system been put in place solid waste would not have been dumped on banks of Doodh Ganga ? Liver ailments, cancers, kidney diseases and other gastro intestinal diseases are on the rise and I say with authority that the intake of unhygienic water is one of the important contributory factors for the occurrence of these diseases. Another water supply scheme has been set up by Government recently at Nowhar village , but again this is a blunder. There are more than half a dozen habitations from Nowhar to Branwar where from Doodh Ganga flows. It should have ideally been set up in a forest area (ahead of Branwar) where there is no human population.
Authorities at the helm of affairs must plug all the drains and lavatory outlets draining into Doodh Ganga from Branwar to Batmaoo Srinagar area (35kms stretch). No solid waste should be allowed to be thrown inside this water-body . This will ensure that clean drinking water is supplied to a huge population.I have seen Doodh Ganga in the forests up- Branwar , the water is so clean and crystal but as soon as it enters Branwar village , the water starts getting contaminated.
From Chadoora onwards the water is completely polluted with solid and liquid waste. Chadoora town which produces lot of solid and liquid waste, must get a scientific waste management plant plus a modern Sewerage Treatment Plant (STP) where solid and liquid waste can be treated. Massive awareness campaign ,In-house composting of biodegradable waste, door to door collection of waste in a segregated manner must be made mandatory. Religious leaders and NGOs should also be asked to get involved in save the Doodh Ganga campaign. If kids like Ubaid can’t swim in the Doodh Ganga now, let us take a pledge to make it so clean that in the coming years the kids living around Doodh Ganga can again swim and enjoy this river like their forefathers.Rural Sanitation Department and Municipal Committee ,Chadoora, District Administration of Srinagar and Budgamhave an important role to play in this direction.
(The author is Chairman of JK RTI Movement)