Bagmati River is an important tributary of the Ganges. It is also considered a holy river in Hindu culture. However, at present, the Bagmati River has been widely used for different purposes, ranging from sand extraction to land encroachment. These pictures, taken near the Teku Bridge in Kathmandu, show how Bagmati has been used as a dumping site for all types of wastes. Text and photos by Anupama Dhamala.
(Left) People gather for a funeral pyre on the bank of Bagmati River in Kathmandu. Cremations are done at the edges of a holy river, called ghats.
Anupama Dhamala is a student from the workshop conducted by theasiamag.com’s Pictures Editor, Debby Ng. The workshop, held in Kathmandu between February and March 2011, is a year-long project that encourages creative and critical thinking through photography. Anupama is enrolled in the Underprivileged Girls Education Support Program (UGESP) established by the Little Sisters Fund.
The workshop is a joint project by theasiamag.com, the Little Sisters Fund, Takshashila Academy, and The Patatas.
Passing by the Bagmati Bridge daily, I get to see a river swamped with piles and piles of garbage. Drainage pipes are being emptied in the so-called holy river, while children search for their childhood in the rubbish; children in rags or school uniforms, busy studying their books made of garbage; and passers-by wrinkling up their noses to avoid the stench as families scavenge to make a living.
(Left) A woman picks up dubo (holy grass) for worshipping purposes, near the bank of Bagmati River in Teku.
I see banks overgrown with marijuana leaves and dreadlocked Sadhus lost in hallucination, both slums and multi-storied buildings smiling at each other.
(Left) People continue with their daily activities near the river bank, early in the morning.
I hear the tinkling of bells from a nearby temple and the cries of a hungry child mingled as one, the religious hymns and prayers of pilgrims and the swearing of drug addicts as well. I smell the incense of worship and the stench of decomposing rubbish.
(Left) The morning sun reflects on the Bagmati River amidst piles of dumped garbage.
(Left) Local people wash their clothes in a natural spring near the river bank. Water shortage in the valley compels people to wash clothes, even in places like this.
(Left) Garbage dump on the banks of Bagmati River in Teku.
(Left) A man fetches drinking water from a spring near the Bagmati River. Most of Kathmandu’s drinking water comes from the Bagmati River system that has seven streams in Kathmandu Valley. However, the supply is insufficient for the city which has chronic water shortage.
(Left) Looking for a lost childhood: A child living in a slum on the bank of Bagmati River walks through the garbage dumped along the front of his home.
(Left) People live their life adjacent to Bagmati.
(Left) A cloud of smoke blows from a pile of burning garbage. The garbage from Kathmandu Valley is collected at Teku transfer station where it is separated and compressed.
(Left) Bagmati River awakens to another grey misty morning.
As I walk, my sense organs soak in these happenings, and emotions sweep over me; sometimes I am frustrated to see the sorry state and stand helplessly; sometimes the beautiful view of the river snaking into the horizon fills my mind with a bright hope of seeing the Bagmati flowing with its silver shine, numerous fishes playing in it, banks blooming with flowers, children playing in the new-made parks, the same children dressed in school uniforms, instead of rags, and leaping towards their and Bagmati's bright future.
(Left) Reflections of bridges on the surface of the polluted yet silently beautiful Bagmati River.