Gangajal Nature Foundation spreads awareness about water pollution, through the medium of ‘Gangajal photo exhibition’, reports Alekh Angre
In India, the river Ganga signifies faith and religion; it is a symbol of our civilization. But, over the years, it has been reduced to a polluted drain, thanks to industrialisation and human greed.
Noticing the contradictory human behaviour towards a river that people revere as ‘Ganga maiyya’ (mother Ganga), a Mumbai-based freelance photographer, Vijay Mudshingikar decided to traverse the entire course of the river capturing images of the devastated Ganges. He exhibited his photographs and the experience eventually led him to set up the Gangajal Nature Foundation in 2007.
The Foundation aims to protect India’s water resources from all kinds of pollution. It has collated extensive data on the polluted Ganga and creates awareness about dying water resources through photographs and documentaries. These efforts forced the Uttarakhand government to ban tourists/pilgrims at Gomukh, including the Kavad Yatra.
“I first read about the Ganga getting polluted while I was bedridden with slipped disc. I decided that after I recover, I must capture its condition through photographs,” says Mr Mudshingikar. He was then working as a junior technician at Crompton Greaves. In 2001, armed with his camera, he started from the point where the Ganga meets the Bay of Bengal and retraced its path to its origin at Gomukh. The photographs, covering a five-year journey, include the immersion of the Durga idol in West Bengal, dev deepawali in Benaras, dead bodies thrown in the river and other forms of pollution startling enough to shock anyone. “The gangajal is pristine blue at Gomukh; but at Kanpur, it was nothing but poison,” he says.
Mr Mudshingikar’s photographs portray the truth more powerfully than words and instantly touch one’s heart. These photographs are meant to create awareness about the state of India’s water resources, be it rivers, lakes or ponds. To dedicate time and attention to this work, Mr Mudshingikar took voluntary retirement from his job in 2006 and used the golden handshake funds to hold his first exhibition in Delhi. Although the exhibition drew a large number of viewers, not a single photograph got sold. Slowly word spread and funds from the founders and members of his organisation helped him in his mission to create awareness. “The coming generation will see worse pollution, so we always try to create awareness amongst school kids,” he explains.
Gangajal Foundation organised a ‘Jan Jodo Ganga Yatra’ in 2010 connecting people across the river’s 2,525km course. In the process, they collected useful data like levels of pollution, ill-effects on people’s lives, video records of the untreated effluent and sewage discharge. It is the local authorities from Kanpur who took action and blocked some nullahs that were draining into the river.
“Local people played a major role in making the authorities take this action. We believe we have reconnected the souls of at least one crore people with the river Ganga,” says Mr Mudshingikar.
The Foundation did similar work on the Panchaganga River in Maharashtra on a small scale. While enthusiasm for the mission is high, paucity of funds is the biggest challenge for Gangajal Foundation. Among its plans is a survey of dying rivers in Maharashtra with special focus on the Mithi River, blockage of which caused killer floods in Mumbai in 2005. In March 2012, the Foundation will undertake a data collection cruise on the river by boat. It also hopes to start a regular Ganga tour, to educate people on water pollution. “People think Ganga darshan is only for old people. We want everyone to see its condition and realise that we don’t hesitate to pollute it even as we call it holy water.”
One can volunteer for documenting the activities and collating research material for the Foundation. You can also donate financially. All donations are eligible for tax exemption under Section 80 (G) of the Income-Tax Act.
Gangajal Nature Foundation
96/2715, Shree Cooperative Housing Society
Mumbai 400 083
Tel: +91 (022) 2577 5070