Maharashtra government has decided to make the ancient Bhima river at Pandharpur in the state pollution free and revive its sanctity through the 'Namami Chandrabhaga' project. The project, brainchild of Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar, was first mentioned by him in his budget speech this year where he spoke of changing the face of the river by 2019.
According to an official from Water Resources department, Bhima is called 'Chandrabhaga' at Pandharpur in Solapur district as it resembles a half-curved moon. It flows southeast for 861 kms through Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Telangana, before entering the Krishna river. "The river gets polluted in Pandharpur, which is a holy place. We will hold a meeting on June 1 at Pandharpur to discuss the details of the project in which experts will be involved. We have invited about 200 experts from across the nation, including those who are working on the Ganga rejuvenation project," Mungantiwar said.
An initial presentation was made before the minister by various departments, including by Maharashtra Pollution Control Board, which in its report pointed out the pollution in Bhima and its ally rivers. Indrayani, Mula and Mutha are major allied rivers of Bhima which are polluted in Pune district due to sewage water. Mungantiwar said the government's focus is towards Pandharpur as it is a holy place and lakhs of devotees visit the place twice a year. "There are no permanent and sufficient facilities of toilets and devotees practice open defecation during their yatra. We have to stop this. It needs awareness as well as a need to construct basic amenities and facilities like sewage treatment plant to stop the river from getting polluted," Mungantiwar said. "This is the first step towards making holy places pollution free and we will start from Chandrabhaga," he said. The expenditure likely on the project could be calculated once the detailed project is finalised, he added.