Lal Koul is a canal that flows from Bumhama through Drugmulla, Shalpora, Keegam and many other villages. There was a time when this canal was an important source of irrigation for thousands of kanals of paddy fields. During summertime, children would bathe in the canal to relieve themselves from the heat. Women used to frequent the Lal Koul. It provided the crucial resource of water.
When we were children, the Lal Koul was full of crystal clear water. The human settlements around the water drank from it.
But since the past several years, communities nearby have witnessed the Lal Koul undergoing tremendous change and a steep decline in the quality of its water. Even the reduced flow is strikingly visible to the ones acquainted with its past glory.
As changes in climatic conditions continue to surprise old-timers, the growing temperatures in the valley have caused the water of the canal to evaporate, affecting water levels and on the contrary, resulting in the formation of marshy margins that create spaces filled with floating algae and other weeds.
The new construction projects along the banks of the Lal Koul is squeezing it further.
In addition to that, the human settlements on the periphery of the canal ironically cause the most damage to the natural body. Sewage belonging to these settlements is discharged into the canal directly. Mixed solid waste including vegetable scraps, polythene bags, papers, etc. is dumped into it. A lot of public latrines, which are frequented by locals, have been built along the banks of the canal.
The water which was once sweet and pure, is now poisonous and choked with plastic dump. Commuters deal with bad odour and dirt while walking along the bank of the Lal Koul.
The garbage on its edges has become the centre for the development of germs and diseases. A lot of stray dogs roam around these spots for food and carry the infectants with them to the villages.
Owing the contamination in the water body, farmers are not able to irrigate their paddy fields. This is also resulting in a lot of agrarian and economic losses.
Albeit the people of the land are facing many problems, they are completely oblivious to the rot in their backyard. The Lal Koul is in a pathetic condition and it is extremely urgent that the irrigation department and the civic administration find a joint solution to save the canal from dying. It is the responsibility of the irrigation department but it is sad that the concerned authority is lax in initiating steps for its proper and rightful maintenance. There are some rumours in the villages that the irrigation department wants the civic administration to take over the maintenance of the canal as it flows through more than one village.
Even though it is expected of the people to properly dispose of their waste and avoid using the canal as their personal dumpyard, the authorities need to be pulled up for forcing the commoners to treat the Lal Koul as the only space of dumping. There are hardly any dustbins around the area and the concept of scientific waste management is non-existent. The civic body has done very little to nothing for installing dustbins along the crossroads.
The villagers must also be cognizant about the God gifted treasure they have had the privilege to enjoy and share. The communities need to come together to preserve and protect their canal from further deterioration and slowly restore its original majesty.
The civic administration needs to fulfil its basic duty by installing dustbins every 200 metres along the flow of the canal.
Every individual in the community should help in minimizing pollution by practising waste management at their homes.
The old glory of the canal can never be retrieved but we suggest that the restoration work be handed over to an independent agency which has the complete knowledge of water bodies and their ecology. The work must be allowed to progress without political interference.
Students at Aligarh Muslim University
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