This Is How Antwada, An Earth Day Network Star Village Is Reviving Kali River

On November 21, 2019, the villagers of Antwada scaled up their efforts from sporadic cleaning of plastic waste and plantation activities, to digging at large scale and cleaning the Kali river themselves with voluntary labour.

If humans decide to revive the natural resources, nature supports; the forest region of village Antwada is a perfect example of this. The river Kali East (also known as Nagin river because of the serpentine route it follows) emanates from the ground aquifers of village Antwada and is one of the tributaries of river Ganga.

Originating from the forests of Antwada village in Jansad tehsil of Muzaffarnagar district, the river flows like a small stream for about 3 kms with clear waters. It had gone in oblivion during the past two decades since it was being used as a dumping ground with contaminants, untreated effluents and indiscriminate use of polythene from many sources disposed into it all along its course.

According to the elderly residents of Antwada village, there is an ancient mythological story about the origin of this river. Once upon a time, a saint lived across the village in a hut near a Mahale tree. An ardent follower of river Ganga, he would go to Ganga in Shukratal every morning to bathe. When he got old, it became difficult for him to travel the distance.

So one day after bathing at the river Ganga, he prayed that he could not come again as it was no longer possible for him to travel this distance every day. He urged that if Holy Ganga wished for him to bathe in Ganga every day, then it will have to come to his place at Antwada. Unable to bear the agony of not being able to follow his daily practice of bathing in the river, he could not sleep the whole night.

Next day, a bull is believed to have hit at the Mahale tree near the saint’s hut. Because of the bull’s actions, a group of snakes residing in the tree came out. One of the female snakes went towards the south direction. It is believed that a water stream followed her wherever she moved. Hence, the river is also known as “Naagin River”. It is thus believed that the origin of this river is from that tree, and the saint bathed in this stream every day until his death.

From another perspective of science, the groundwater level of the area around Antwada village is much higher than other regions (even today at 10 feet) that water flowed naturally from that point. The water flowed in a stream, and when other streams joined it, it became a river. The farmers over the years covered this stream and started farming on it.

Thereafter, it was turned into a dumping drain with all sorts of garbage flowing. The river which gave life to others was dying to get its own life back. Along its 300 kms long-flowing stream, it is being used as a drain and has become poisonous. It is also one of the main contributors of pollution in the Holy River Ganga when it merges with it at Kannauj.

The Kali river flows through eight districts of Uttar Pradesh before its confluence with Ganga river at a distance of 598 kms from Antwada. The river has over 1,200 villages situated on its bank, and the highly populated and predominantly rural catchment entirely depends on the Kali river as a water resource for domestic, agricultural and industrial use. At the originating point, the river is seen as a freshwater drain, but after flowing for about one kilometre, it takes the shape of a river, with water accumulating from different aquifers.

Key industries, including sugar processing units and their associated alcohol manufacturing distilleries, paper mills, dairies and tanneries discharge their effluents in this river. Besides, Kali river receives a large volume of untreated sewage from thousands of major and minor habitations around it, domestic waste water-flow and dead animals are also dumped in the river.

Due to this mismanagement of a vital water resource, its physio-chemical qualities have deteriorated so much that it has affected the groundwater too. The polluted river carries waterborne viruses and bacteria and is responsible for the ill health of the people. However, the marginalized community residing within the catchment area is bound to consume the highly polluted water. The residents are left with no option other than to fend for themselves or die of neglect.

The river which gave life to others was dying to get its own life back.

The major pollution problem diminishes at Aligarh as no industrial waste is added between Aligarh and Kannauj where it meets Holy Ganga at Mendiganj Ghaat at Gangaraj village. It was the awakened consciousness of the residents of Antwada village who felt that for this dark journey of river Kali (East) and considered themselves responsible for the state of river Kali. Hence, a people’s campaign to ‘Clean River Kali’ was launched.

Determined for the cause of the society, under the leadership of Raman Tyagi of NEER Foundation, the villagers were informed about the impact of a polluted river through several awareness programs during the past five years. They made wall paintings in the villages with messages to save the Kali River.

A documentary was produced highlighting the causes and extent of pollution in the Kali River and its harmful impact on the environment and human health. All the public representatives in the regions along the Kali River catchment are being made aware of the present disgraceful situation of the river through letters. They are being requested to extend support to the organisation towards saving this river.

Representatives from various civil society organisations and students are being involved in the campaign on a mass level. International organisations working on river conservation such as FIAN International, FANSA, International River Foundation, World Environment Federation, India Water Partnership, WWF, Govternment of India, World River Forum, International Water Association and Earth Day Network are being involved in the campaign. A coordinator has been appointed in each of the eight districts through which the Kali River flows, who are working to save the river.

The villagers of Antwada gathered and formed Nadi Raksha Samities (River Protection Committees). Based on these Samities (Committees), a Kali river Parliament has been formed. Health camps are organized in the villages to highlight their plight and support provided on medical facilities. The villagers were educated and sensitized not to drink the polluted water from the hand-pumps installed in the villages and not to irrigate their fields from the river water.

They were regularly convinced to clean the river. As a result of community-led efforts to revive the river which included sending grievance letters to Pollution Control Board and Human Rights Commission, there is some hope. The Planning Department of the Uttar Pradesh government has now prepared a scheme worth ₹88 crores to make the Kali river pollution-free.

It was the awakened consciousness of the residents of Antwada village who felt that for this dark journey of river Kali (East) and considered themselves responsible for the state of river Kali.

On November 21, 2019, the villagers of Antwada scaled up their efforts from sporadic cleaning of plastic waste and plantation activities, to digging at large scale and cleaning the river themselves with voluntary labour. The honest approach of the villagers who donated 148 bighas of their farming land to revive the river, influenced many organizations to join hands. The Minister of State, Government of India, Mr Sanjeev Baliyan, has now adopted this village for development. Regular action plans are made to clean the river kilometer-by-kilometer until the community achieves the target of cleaning it up to Kannauj.

With the support provided by Raman Tyagi of NEER Foundation, Meerut, the community became aware and joined hands to revive their traditional heritage: River Kali. This dedication and integrated community approach of the villagers by providing manual labour, sacrificing their agricultural land and volunteering to form River Protection Committees and Kali River Parliament, established a sustainable model for the revival of the river. This community-managed model is worth replication in other parts of the country and even overseas, and India can feel proud to see the dream of Swachh Bharat Mission come true with such social approaches and efforts.

Looking at the unique approach adopted in Antwada village, Earth Day Network conferred the “Star Village” certificate on February 2, 2020, to the village. The day marked the commemoration of World Wetland Day, and it was an appropriate day to recognize the work of the lost wetland that has now been revived in Uttar Pradesh.

Looking at the unique approach adopted in Antwada village, Earth Day Network conferred the “Star Village” certificate on February 2, 2020, to the village.

We appeal to all citizens of Earth to please do your bit to help clean up our planet. For an opportunity to record your efforts and get recognition for the same, click here!

Earth Day Network Star Village, January 2020: Antwada, Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh

Announcing the Earth Day Network Star Village, January 2020: Antwada, Muzaffarnagar, Uttar PradeshDid you know that the Kali River, a tributary of the Ganga, had died as it was choked with garbage? It was brought back to life by the villagers at Antwada who donated their land so that the debris could be cleared to enable water to flow again. @Earth Day Network-India commends Antwada for reviving the Kali River. #GreatGlobalCleanup #EndPlasticPollution #Trees4Life #FarmersForEarth

Posted by Earth Day Network-India on Tuesday, January 21, 2020

For more details, please contact:

Mr Raman Kant

Natural Environmental Education and Research (NEER) Foundation

Ist Floor, Samrat Shopping Mall,

Garh Road,

Meerut  (Uttar Pradesh)

Phone: 0121-4030595

Email: theneerfoundation@gmail.com

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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