The problem is so vast that the government needs to be involved, but that hasn't stopped pressure groups like Friends of the Bagmati and other activists from raising awareness and organising clean-ups. Friends of the Bagmati marked the 16th global Clean Up the World Campaign on 28 September by teaming up with the Australian Embassy to help tidy up the banks of the Bagmati at Teku.
While one may be skeptical of what difference one day of cleaning could make to this terminally ill river, it could at least generate some awareness of the problem.
Australian ambassador Graeme Lade (in picture) who lent a hand by picking up plastic litter said: "This day is about encouraging people to understand the importance of protecting their environment. Let's hope it will last all year and not just one day."
The Clean Up The World campaign started in 1993 as a smaller, national project in Australia, but founder Ian Kiernan found international interest overwhelming. Today, more than 35 million people in about 120 countries take part every September to encourage local communities to start conserving and cleaning up the environment around them.
The Bagmati is one of the most polluted places in Nepal, so for Kedar Bhakta Shrestha, chairman of the Friends of the Bagmati, it was the obvious place to begin: "Starting the campaign here would be a good way of encouraging people to clean up their own communities."
Defying a bandh, more than 200 people from different organisations?including the Nepal Scouts, Nagarpalika, Toyota, Agni Corporation, the Rotary Club and Nepal Police?turned out to take part in the campaign.
Keshav Mathema, another member of the Friends of the Bagmati said the larger problem of city sewage emptying into the river had to be stopped. "The major problem of sewage and drainage has to be addressed to give the Bagmati back its natural, holy character."