The term Ghat in Bengali language means a set of stairs which leads to a pond or a larger water body like a river. There are many cities through which rivers pass and the ghats were constructed on the banks of such cities so that the people could use them for bathing and other purposes. For example the ghats in the city of Kolkata have their own significance. They are the silent observers of many life and death events. They have also noticed the changing landscape of the city. However the ghats of Kolkata are now in a despairing situation.
The ghats along the Ganga in Kolkata are areas where religious activities and trade is conducted and a walk along one of these busy ghats of Kolkata by Sholoana Bangaliana correspondent in order to present a World Environment Day Special article revealed a sorry state of affairs.
The ghats are in a terrible situation and nearly all of them are crumbling down. All the ghats are in various stages of erosion and these places which used to be the pride of the people in the city have now become victims of ill-maintenance.
One must thank the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage which took the onus of restoring the Prinsep Ghat in 1993. This was built as a promenade by the British government and hence cannot be called a proper ghat. However the ghat has been identified as a British era relic and hence has been luckier than its counterparts.
The next Ghat under observation was the Babu Ghat. Things are dreary here. Illegal vehicles parked, garbage dumpes and the gangs of pandas make you go mad during your visit to the ghat and add to this the stench of the garbage and you will surely get a taste of “Living hell”.
Mutty Lal Seal Ghat was named after a well known philanthropist. This ghat is also facing the same fate as it’s the other counterparts. The biggest challenge is trying to enter the ghat. The garbage lying in the open welcomes you to the ghat. This area which had much importance in the early 19th century has now become a place to dump garbage and inspite of the pitiable state of the water body here, people bathe here without the slightest of hesitation.
If this was not enough, then Loha Ghat and Ram Chandra Goenka bathing ghats with the foul smell emanating from all around will make your my guts wench.
The most sorry sight that left me thinking about the health and well being of the poorer sections of the society was that number of people use these unclean waters for bathing and other purposes as either do not have any options or they are not well aware of the consequences of consumption of such unsafe water. This is harmful for their health. They may become victims of many water borne diseases. Also the way the people are polluting the river waters is alarming. Awareness must be increased by the government authorities among the people to restore the condition of the Kolkata ghats.
Despite the Ganga Action Plan (GAP), the condition of the ghats continue to deteriorate. Without proper action being taken, chances are that the ghats will die an untimely death.