“For a lot of people the Mutha river is just water flowing under the bridge,” says Shailaja Deshpande, one of the founders of Jeevitnadi- Living River Foundation. An organisation comprising of individuals from diverse professions who are passionate about environment conservation. Their aim is to revive the river by raising public awareness and participation, eliminating causes of pollution through “Toxin-free Lifestyles” and developing scientific and ecological management plans for sustainability of the river. To further propagate this, Jeevitnadi has introduced its second annual Muthai River Festival, which will take place from 23 to 28 November. The inauguration ceremony witnessed a host of individuals being awarded for their immense contribution towards betterment of the environment.
A quest for community participation, it all began with one of the founder’s emotional act towards his son. Niranjan Upasani, made a promise on his son’s first birthday that ten years later he would take his son for a swim in the Mula Mutha. This struck a chord with Aditi Deodhar, Manish Ghorpade, Ushaprabha Page and Shailaja Deshpande who went on to create Jeevitnadi. “We just want the people of Pune to be more aware and bring them closer to the river and its issues,” explains Deshpande. “We don’t inherit earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children and we pledge it to return to the next generation, what is rightfully theirs”- A proverb that resonates with this year’s initiative. The festival activities have been planned centred around this ethos. Most of the activities designed are to encourage maximum people participation and re-establish the lost connect with our river.
In a bid to make people realise the value and historic importance of the Mutha river, the festival showcases art by various environmentalists and artists. Each piece depicts how the river looked in the past, in order to allow viewers to revisit the beauty that once adorned these banks. Paddy fields all around and elephants enjoying their baths, sharing space with a species of cows that are now extinct. Today, these have been replaced with plastic bags, industrial and sewage waste all around.
Keeping the theme of this year’s festival in mind- Awareness and Action, a competition has been organised. This will see students of Architecture and Town Planning colleges from Pune, Mumbai, Nagpur and Ahmedabad conceptualising a plan for the betterment of Pune’s waterfront. Speaking about this, Ghorpade adds, “We believe that the youth are agents of change. This competition is to fire up their imagination. The competition will be judged by a jury and the best two will be chosen.” Elaborating on some of the long term goals, Ghorpade says, “All these competitions will provide us with a set of solutions over time which can be implemented. Also, we could look at the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) partnering with us and work towards a common cause.”
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