MANY WOULD recall the attractive photograph published in this newspaper a few weeks back of lamps set afloat in the Upper Lake after ‘Chhat Puja’. In the surrounding darkness numerous lighted lamps, with their shimmering reflections, made an incredibly beautiful picture and reminded one of similar sights in Haridwar at dusk during the ‘Ganga Arati’.
While the Ganga at Haridwar, in the surge of its descent, whisks the lamps downstream at a remarkable pace to deposit them somewhere on its flanks, on the Upper Lake, moved by a gentle breeze, they only ended up along its sides mingling with accumulated rubbish and other cast-offs thoughtlessly thrown by passers-by.
A ritual was accomplished with great piety, but the offerings had an irreverent end in the waters that are not even holy, only adding to the Lake’s pollution. If one cranes one’s neck across the railings along the VIP Road and looks down, one can see the filth that is there in the waters below.
From the remnants of ritual offerings in plastic-coated containers to discarded plastic cups, plates, bags and an assortment of weeds, all float in what looks like a filthy, slimy bog. The waste-bins and small placards nailed to the tops of the railings by the BMC Lake Conservation Cell imploring people not to throw rubbish into the Lake and that it had been kept ‘surakshit’ for drinking purposes have proved to be of no consequence.
Too much reliance is placed on the (non-existent?) good sense of citizens. Substantial outlays under the Bhoj Wetland Project (BWP) to raise awareness of the people about the need to keep the Lake-waters pollution-free have, however, yielded hardly any result.
On numerous occasions I have noticed people in luxury cars stopping by on the bridge to throw away plastic bags containing offerings of ceremonies held elsewhere. Forget about other sources of pollution, the Lake is even used to bathe elephants, horses, sundry other animals and for even washing trucks.
Unless we are at an edge of a precipice we never correct our course. Something of this kind happened in 2002, when the Lake was on the verge of death. Shaking their apathy away, people whole-heartedly co-operated in shifting the venue of post-festivals immersions of effigies to the Prempura Ghaat specially-constructed (but lying unused) for the purpose.
The number of effigies immersed have, however, progressively risen since then, so much so that while the Lake Conservation Authority (LCA) has lamented the lack of (eco-friendly) immersion laws, the MP Pollution Control Board, waking up after its inordinately long slumber, has urged the administration for discontinuance of all immersions in sources of drinking water.
Exhibiting unusual initiative it promised to collect water samples from Prempura after the festival season. The results of its analyses are, however, yet unknown. Also, the LCA categorically came out against the deadly materials used in idols that cause enormous harm to the Lake’s eco-system. Evidently, we are fast approaching the edge of another precipice again. And, yet while, reportedly, there are “no takers” for eco-friendly idols, the government, unlike those of Gujarat and Maharashtra, dithers in enacting suitable laws.
Apart from being the town’s lifeline, the Upper Lake is a vital constituent of our habitat and needs to be conserved in pristine condition. The government and its agencies will have to be more proactive, making provision for the necessary financial, human and material resources to guard against its continuing pollution.
Education of people, determined governance and strict policing, with tactful, yet firm, handling of people’s religious sensibilities are needed to head them away from their suicidal course. Let not the pervasive ignorance and a rising tide of faith cause avoidable harm to them as well as to the Lake.