Pune: Carrying a palanquin of famous saint Dnyaneshwar with a message of water conservation, about a dozen boats have sailed off to Indrayani on a unique river
expedition to the pilgrim town of Pandharpur.
Christened "Jal Dindi" by its pioneer Vishwas Yeole, the start of the expedition on Friday marked the tenth year of this environmental awareness drive modelled on the famous
pilgrimage on foot undertaken every year by Warkari sect devotees of Lord Vitthal to Pandharpur.
"This is a special moment for our endeavour as the little known exercise undertaken in 2002 by a group of environmentalists is now gathering support at all levels with
greater participation in the downstream riparian towns which bear the brunt of a polluted water flow thanks to urbanization and industrialisation in Pune region," said Yeole, a medico by profession.
Yeole along with representatives of concerned groups in the city embarked upon the "Jal Dindi" programme.
He has also roped in some students of the Government Engineering College who run a boat club on the banks of river Mutha that flows through the city, with a 12-day annual
scheduled voyage during which the volunteers conduct various tests to measure water pollution level.
"We are trying to blend health, environment and spirituality to spread this message of water conservation because the problem of pollution is becoming serious with
industrial development in urban areas as well as haphazard management of garbage and sewage disposal, threatening the population living along the river banks," Yeole said.
"The malady is that the planners in big cities situated upstream, seem to be sacrificing the well being of the downstream population in their pursuit of industrial and economic development, showing little concern for pollutants that are channelled into the river," Yeole said.
Along the way, the `Jal Dindi` activists numbering around 125, would be organising health camps, showing films on ecology and environment protection, tree plantation and a demonstration of water purification to the population living on the river bank.
"The spiritual dimension to the expedition comes from the 800-year-old tradition of pilgrimage undertaken on foot annually by lakhs of Warkari sect devotees from all over
Maharashtra as well as neighbouring states, who carry the palanquins of saint Dynaneshwar and Tukaram from Alandi and Dehu to Pandharpur converging on the bank of river Chandrabhaga or Bhima on Ashadhi Ekadashi day," said Vinod Bodhankar, a trustee of the Jal Dindi pratishthan.
"What is heartening is that the effort is now acknowledged by the education department of Maharashtra government which has included the Jal Dindi drive in its text books for school students," Yeole noted.