A walk of around 5,000 km may seem a herculean task to lesser mortals, but a group of 100 army veterans plan to go the full distance to contribute to the Clean Ganga initiative.
Come August and these daring veterans will start from the holy river’s genesis ‘Gomukh’ to ‘Gangasagar’, the point at which it merges into the sea in the Bay of Bengal, and then return to the starting point.
‘Mundaman Parikrama’ will take around seven months to complete, during which the veterans plan to hold public meetings to mobilise participation of more people living along the river towards the cause that has both environmental and religious significance.
The team plans to hold more than 200 public meetings and two lakh school visits along the river course for creating mass awareness.
A tracker will be developed to keep a tab on an increase or decrease in pollution in and around the river. A report in this regard will be handed over to the Prime Minister’s Office and other ministries concerned.
“We don’t aim to blame anyone; we intend to depute ‘panidars’ just like we had ‘zamindars’ earlier on, to take responsibility for a particular stretch of the river,” Lt Col H.C. Lohumi (retd), who is part of the endeavour, said.
“Even a 15- to 16-year-old boy can take responsibility of one or two km of the Ganga. He can question authorities why an industrial unit is flushing its waste into the river or why locals dispose waste in it. This will create a mass movement,” Lohumi added.
As per the rules of ‘Mundaman Parikrama’, the walker is not allowed to cross the river at any point, except at Gomukh and Gangasagar. He or she can move away from the banks for only a maximum of one yojan or 13 km, and must see the holy river once in 24 hours.
The Parikrama is an initiative under a broader project named ‘Atulya Ganga’, whose founder Gopal Sharma said: “For years, we have been trying to clean the Ganga but to no avail. The problem isn’t that we aren’t doing enough, it’s that people aren’t proactive enough. The people of the entire Gangetic plains need to be educated about the fragility and importance of this riverine ecosystem and the impact it had and still has on our economy, lifestyle and livelihood.”
The team will undertake the Parikrama for at least 10 years. Records will be maintained to cross check on progress in pollution reduction in and around the river.
In another endeavour under ‘Atulya Ganga’, Colonel Manoj Keshwar (retd) will carry a baton on a trans-continental journey on a bike — from India Gate in Delhi to London — to create awareness for the cause of the Ganga river.
“We aim to measure the Ganga from origin to the point of merger in the sea… we will ensure that we measure the pollution levels in the river and on shores in every region along the way,” Colonel Keshwar told the media here.