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Meet the Guardians of the Ganga — Men who keep the river safe and clean

Written by The Optimist

 

There have been numerous reports of severe erosion along the banks of the Ganga in many villages of Nadia and Malda districts. The authorities concerned have, time and again, turned a deaf ear to the problems of villagers, while they live in fear of losing their home and hearth. Some, who were farmers earlier, now work as labourers and live in temporary shelters after losing their crop land.

But this is how the Kolkata River Traffic Police has stepped in to protect the Ganga, the lifeline of the City of Joy… The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) is a central government initiative for rejuvenation, protection and management of the Ganga. It is a herculean task! But Rajiv Sarkar, O-C, River Traffic Police, Kolkata, a dedicated policeman with years of experience, has begun an incredible journey to give a completely new meaning to the ‘Clean City, Green City’ initiative.

Very recently, the River Traffic Police under Sarkar’s leadership, played a pivotal role in implementing the NMCG, Biodiversity Conservation and Ganga Rejuvenation projects in the true spirit of the National Green Tribunal’s directives. On February 2, 2019, 20,000 saplings were planted along the river banks in a record 60 seconds. Before this, the police, municipal officials, NGOs and other stakeholders undertook the mammoth task of cleaning up the ‘Augean Stables’ of plastic piled up in the area.

 

 

The credit goes to Sarkar for motivating his compatriots in the process. A humble, dutiful officer as always, Sarkar says, “The River Traffic Police is committed to the area’s welfare. Our team has been working hard to remove plastic and idol structures from the river. Every year, we remove a huge number of idol structures after immersion. I’m indebted to our government, our CP, Syed Waquar Raza, IPS, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Port Division) and government officials for the extremely efficient coordination of the project.”

 

 

The River Traffic Police, Kolkata, is entrusted with multifarious duties in river traffic management, guarding the large public transit system of ferry services and other cargo vessels — both inbound and outbound from the sea. It is also responsible for the security of millions of devotees who come for holy dips during different religious functions, like Makar Sankranti, or idol immersion after Durga Puja and Kali Puja. The River Traffic Police guards the riverine jurisdiction of both Kolkata and Howrah, including their water pumping stations. Guarding one of the oldest oil wharfs on both land and water at Budge Budge, it keeps the river crime-free along a 40.58-km-long stretch.

 

 

In the recent past, the River Traffic Police played a pivotal role in the ‘Clean City Green City’ project under the leadership of CP Syed Raza. Some major projects performed by the River Traffic Police last year:

 

 

Clearing away the huge numbers of idols immersed after different festivals in the Ganga (Hooghly in Kolkata). The large number of idol structures found floating on the river after immersions pose a major danger for vessels and even people who bathe at the different ghat The floating idols structures are gathered and removed by a River Traffic Police team, helped by KMC. On September 28, 2018, about 1,000 idol structures were gathered from several ghats of the city by the River Traffic Police after Ganesh Puja and Viswakarma Puja.

On February 2, 2019, once again under the ‘Clean City, Green City’ initiative, the River Traffic Police, Port Division, organized an event, ‘River Bank Ecology and Restoration Project’, in collaboration with the Department of Forests, Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC), CESC Ltd, India Carbon Limited (ICL), such NGOs as Lions Club of Calcutta, Manavjyot, and the students of St Xavier’s Collegiate School and Anglo-Gujarati High School.

 

 

Many eminent personalities took part and contributed to this initiative, which made it a great success. Among those present were the Kolkata Police Commissioner; CP Syed Raza, IPS; Dr Saheed Shahul Hameed, Scientist ‘D’/ Deputy Director, Botanical Survey of India, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Government of India; and Dr M  Sharief Ph.D, Jt Director/ Scientist ‘E’ and Head, Botanical Survey of India, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, GoI, among others.

The herculean task of planting a record 20,000 saplings along the banks for almost the entire 80-km stretch from Konnagar to Budge Budge in just 60 seconds needed much preparation. Arranging 20,000 saplings, digging 20,000 holes in advance for the plantations, arranging enough volunteers and reaching the saplings to their locations that were not easily accessible by road were some major challenges.

The state forest department helped in the event by providing 4,000 saplings free; the remaining 16,000 were purchased from the state forest department.

 

 

 Salient features of the project:

In addition to producing oxygen, trees provide a range of other important benefits to rivers, people and animals, including:

  • Slowing rainwater runoff; reducing flooding, erosion and pollution; and recharging aquifers
  • Providing important habitats for all kinds of animals, including those that fly, swim or crawl
  • Keeping rivers cool, helping fish and other riverine life. They do the same thing for our cities and homes
  • Capturing carbon dioxide, locking it away in its roots, leaves and wood
  • Improving water quality, besides absorbing and filtering pollution from soil and air
  • Creating beautiful places, providing spots to gather, reflect and enjoy nature.

 

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The Optimist

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