The monsoon-heavy brown waters of the Bagmati will Friday host a unique flotilla of kayaks and rafts. The Second Bagmati River Festival will bring together environmentalists, school children, the tourism industry, and concerned citizens in a day-long celebration along the river from its headwaters in Sundarijal to Sankhamul.
The Bagmati River is the source of the Kathmandu Valley civilisation, the waters that nourish its culture and religion. And it is the main element of Kathmandu's environmental regeneration. But it is now choking with waste, and has become a symbol of our negligence of the environment.
The Bagmati River Festival is jointly organised by the Nepal River Conservation Trust (NRCT) and the Friends of the Bagmati. Says veteran river guide and NRCT founder, Megh Ale: "We can clean this river, but to do that we have to look at the problems from the Bagmati's perspective. That is why we want to raft down the river."
Twenty professional river guides will kick off the festival at 8AM on Friday, 23 August, with a kayak race from Sundarijal to Tilganaga. Next, ten rafts holding VIPs, school children and representatives of local communities will leave Tilganga for Sankhamul. There, starting noon, will be music and an exhibition with the Bagmati as backdrop. Popular actors Niruta Singh and Dilip Rayamajhi will be guest stars, and Himalayan Feelings will be belting out music. Also atending will be Om Bikram Bista, Yogeshwor Amatya, Nalina Chitrakar, Tantric and others.
And, since Friday is also Gai Jatra, present will be famous Nepali comedian duo Madan Krishna and Haribansa, and infamous Nepali satire poet, Chatyang Master.
Several Kathmandu Valley schools will put on an exhibition of photographs, Bagmati debris and water sample analyses. Also on display will be a container showing the residue from a distillation of Bagmati water. Other shools will have poster exhibitions and clay models of Kathmandu Valley, and will stage plays and skits.
Friends of the Bagmati, which is a pressure group that aims to restore the Bagmati to its traditional glory, says that the river festival is a unique partnership between like-minded conservation groups. Dr Suresh Raj Sharma, chairman of Friends of the Bagmati says: "The Bagmati River is in a terrible state, ecologically and culturally. It is the responsibility of each and every one of us to help restore the river to its original pristine state, and conserve the cultural, religious and architectural heritage of Kathmandu Valley."
The Bagmati is presently gorged with monsoon water, the annual natural cleansing of the river. This year, the river also burst its banks: could it be a divine warning to treat the river with more respect?
For further information:
Friends of the Bagmati
Nepal River Conservation Trust