Why do we need the revival and rejuvenation of the river Nila?

National Summit on Revival and Rejuvenation of Bharatha Puzha (Nila/Bharat River) will be held in New Delhi on March 24.

Bharatha Puzha, the second largest river in Kerala is just a faint shadow of its once glorious past – the river that is active only during the monsoon season. The river that watered and nurtured the paddy field, the traditional rice bowl of Kerala is alive only in the memories of Keralites…it is a nostalgia. So is the initiative just to satisfy the nostalgic feelings of few Keralites? My answer is a firm ‘No’.

There is an umbilical bond between rivers and civilizations. A river is not just a watercourse that rushes towards an ocean. It impacts and influences generations and history says that all the ancient civilizations originated along the river banks. River impacts us directly as the drinking water, food from the fields that it irrigates, the cloths made from the yarn produced from the cotton plants that it waters, the cleanliness, hygiene, sports, the recreational and cultural activities all are held on the river banks. Not to mention the scenic beauty and solace a river offers, and influences and ignites the poetic minds.

Our mindless exploitation of nature through deforestation, sand mining, dam building, dumping of the industrial waste and sewage are the major reasons for the piteous condition of Nila. The depletion of the river is hinting at the possible desertification of the Palakkad district. It is high time that we should work for the conservation of this natural resource.

The concept of the rejuvenation of rivers is not very new in India. We have a few examples of the initiatives by the Art of Living Foundation, for rivers Kumudvathi, Vedavathi, and Palar. There are several other organizations also that function with the same aim and work for the rejuvenation of Coovum river. For Nila, the challenges are many as it is an interstate river with 20+ tributaries and is the largest of all the river basins in Kerala.

Incidentally, Nila is the only river that bears the imprint of our nation’s name ‘Bharat’ (Bharatha Puzha/Bharat River) that too in the so-called Dravidian territories. It implies that the feeling of nationality was so strong even before the reign of British, even when that Bharat was divided into 1000+ small states.

The logo for the forthcoming ‘National Summit on Bharatha Puzha’ released by the Union Minister of State Water Resources Arjun Ram Meghwal at a function in New Delhi

This summit is for the rejuvenation of Bharatha Puzha, but not just for Bharatha Puzha. Along with this, we must spread the awareness about the importance of rivers in our lives. They are our lifelines and whosoever said that ‘if there is going to be a third world war, it will be for water’ was absolutely right. We must value our blessings and not wait for a late realization when the damage is already done and is irreversible. Through the judicious consumption and preservation of the natural resources, we can ensure that our rivers remain alive and healthy for the coming generations. The pristine nature that we leave behind will be the mark of our love and care for our future generations, with all our blessings for their physical, emotional, cultural and spiritual well being.