A motley crew of 427 volunteers are on ‘clean Ganga’ mission
They are a diverse group — students, teachers, homemakers, fishermen and boatsmen — but are bound by their concern for the Ganga.
They have taken upon themselves to save the river that is the lifeline of millions of Indians but is among the most polluted in the world.
“The Ganga is our mother. It is not just a matter of faith for us but also our livelihood, so keeping it clean has become my mission,’’ said 47-year-old Ramashankar Singh.
A resident of Bhagalpur in Bihar, Singh is among the 427 Ganga Praharis (guardians of the Ganga), a group of volunteers from local communities living along the river who will help the government in its mission for a “clean and vibrant” Ganga.
Singh and his friends, many of them fishermen, begin their day by pulling polythene and garbage out of the river. His wife, Sunita Devi, and daughter, Bharti Kumar, a BSc honours student, clean and mop the ghats before the break of dawn.
The group has not only taken charge of the water dustbins along the river but has installed a fishnet next to the ghats to stop garbage from flowing into the water.
The Ganga Praharis were trained for a few days by the officials of the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), which last week listed details of 427 such volunteers on its website.
Most of the praharis, who are from Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand, were in New Delhi last week to pledge support for the mission. Dashrath Sahni, part of the Bhaglapur group, calls himself pani ka kisan (farmer of water). “My family and I are alive because of the bounty of the river; if we let the river die, we will die.”
According to officials, Ganga Praharis, who double up as guards, cleaners and environmentalist, are part of a project by NMCG-Wildlife Institute of India.
“To conserve the ecological integrity of the river and reduce the direct dependency of the local communities on it, we are involving members of the local community in the five Ganga states as guardians of the river,’’ said Dr Ruchi Badola, department of ecodevelopment planning and participatory management at WII.
The aim was to have a motivated cadre to support local institutions and monitor the quality of the natural resources of the river.
The Praharis work for free and the mission provided only awareness material. The only qualification was they should be aged over 18 and passionate about the river.
The next step, they said, would be to rope in young school students, the Bal Ganga Praharis.