Devnadi is a freshwater stream that flows from the Sus mountains through Baner into the Mula river.
Birds sing to the tune of the water as it flows down joyously to meet the river downstream. The water caresses every rock, every plant along its path with love. The trees on the banks look at the stream and drop an occasional flower or leaf like a flying kiss to a lover.
The moor hens join the river song as herons wade through the stream enjoying its caress. An occasional kingfisher swoops down to kiss the water and take away a fish in exchange.
The flow of the stream feeds and recharges the streams beneath the surface, in the ground. As the streams in the ground overflow, they come up into the surface and recharge the stream causing it to flow in the bliss of its union with the groundwater.
More than 450 kilometres of streams, like the Devnadi, form the web of life that sustains the rivers of Mula, Mutha and their union.
Rather that’s what it was till the Pune Municipal Corporation decided to channelise the 60 m wide streams to a 1 or 2 meter wide concrete channel with sewers sometime in 2011.
The storm-water drain project of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) decided that these lifelines to happiness flowing into Pune were no more than a storm water drain.
They were, they declared, gutters.
Engineers excavated the banks to alter the flow of the streams. The ploughed down the trees along the banks. They filled up debris to claim the land of the streams. Then they poured concrete where the groundwater joined the stream so that the two may never meet.
They laid pipes to carry sewage in the channels that resulted. Most of the Devnadi and almost 450 kilometres of freshwater streams in Pune converted to sewage drains. It took little time for real estate to engulf more than 26 square kilometres of the land of the streams. Sewers in these drains release sewage into the drains and, through the rivers, far beyond Pune.
The moor hens do not sing anymore. They have lost the beat of their stream. The herons and kingfishers, heartbroken, have shied away in their sorrow.
Those who live in the tall buildings that now stand where the streams once flowed joyously, now travel hundreds of kilometres to Mahabaleshwar or further to the Himalayas or even far of lands in Europe and Americas to find happiness that once flowed to them through the streams in their backyards.
The water for the people in the tall buildings now does not come from the wells that were recharged by the streams. It comes from the rivers that have been imprisoned by engineers, oblivious of natures water cycle, far away.
As more and more of the land of the streams fills up with more and more tall buildings, more and more rivers are imprisoned far, far away to provide water to the taller and taller buildings in the land of the streams and rivers.
Meanwhile more and more sewage flows into what were Pune’s streams and rivers. Engineers now need to use JCBs to keep the flow of the drains. They now propose ever more sewage lines and sewage treatment plants to clean what were beautiful fresh water streams.
Focused on the short term, the engineers rewrite our geography and poetry books. The human in us despairs as it dies slowly, but surely, every minute as we watch the Devnadi, with its siblings vanish from the face of our city. Happiness slowly disappears as it can no longer flow into our city.
The short term consumes the short-now, the life-time of the child born now.
#All views expressed in this column are the authors and #Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to them.
He can be reached @AnupamSaraph