Bagmati, the largest of the Himalayan kingdom’s rivers and dubbed as the Ganges of Nepal is our most sacred river . The river’s sorry state has received much publicity and despite the interest and involvement shown by various bodies, organizations and projects to revive the once pristine river, none can foretell when we will actually see a clean Bagmati again.
For the last three months one such effort in generating awareness about the Bagmati’s plight “The 4th Bagmati River Festival” has been put forward by the Nepal River Conservation Trust (NRCT). NRCT is a non profit organization that was established by a group of concerned river guides who were alarmed by the ecological, social as well as cultural damage that is wreaking havoc on Nepal’s rivers. NRCT has worked towards developing an environmentally responsible river tourism industry in Nepal. How do they do this? By hosting the Annual River Festival and the Bagmati River Festival, besides running a number of conservation projects.
NRCT and the Sustainable Tourism Network (STN), the main organizers of the festival in association with the various co-organizers, took the Bagmati River Festival this year to greater heights. From a one-day festival (the previous three years) to a three-month long “4th Bagmati River Festival 2004” was a big leap. Starting from 5th June, the festival culminated with a kayak race on 21st August.
River bank clean up, conservation, awareness campaigns as well as adventure water sports were the major ingredients of the festival. The other programs were the anti plastic campaign, training on making compost fertilizers, rallies, heritage walk and tree plantation. There were six competitions for schools (Essay, Drama, Art, Amateur Photography, Speech and Poem) co-organized by NODAN club supported by Himal Media, Nawa Aayam Yuba Club and the Leo Club of Kathmandu Himalayas, Patan.
The highlight of the festival was Dunga Daud- Media and Corporate rafting challenges promoted by Nepal tourism Board, organized by NRCT and co-organized by the Nepal Association of Rafting Agents (NARA) on the 7th and 14th August from Sundarijal to Gokarna. The event was supported by All Nepal River Guides Association (ANRGA) and Le Meridien Gokarna Forest Golf Resort and managed by Sea Services Pvt. Ltd. and the Borderland Resort. Despite the absence of graded rapids, the participants thoroughly enjoyed and celebrated the wonders of this holy river. The ECS team members came back refreshed after the event and celebrated—losing to an all women’s team too- cheers to the ECS spirit! The glory of sports lies in taking part!
Next on line was -the Bagmati Eco-Challenge-run, pedal & paddle event on 20th August; not everyone’s cup of tea.
A relay team event along the river and the watershed, it comprised a 13.5 km mini marathon from Chobar to Balaju, 27 km mountain biking from Balaju to Sundarijal; via Shivapuri and a 7 km raft and kayak race from Sundarijal to Gokarna.
The grand finale of the festival saw two main events, the Bagmati down river kayak challenge and Jal Jatra on 21st August. The former was the continuation of the tradition from previous festivals, a down river kayak challenge for professional kayakers from Sundarijal to Pashupatinath.
Jal Jatra on the other hand included a downriver float from Til Ganga to Thapathali, exhibition, and live concert by Namaste band to celebrate and to mark this two and a half months assertive action towards saving the Bagmati.
People celebrated the source of Kathmandu Valley’s civilization. What the festival achieved, was to make a large mass of people realize that something needs to be done about the polluted rivers of Nepal. See you at the 5th Bagmati River Festival 2005!
Photo: Pramod Neupane-WWF Nepal From red pandas swaying on branches in the eastern Himalayas...