I like the early morning departures. The sun has just risen and the smokey fog of landfills, tuc-tuc, trucks and brick factories creates a special atmosphere that makes the river – at least in these early hours – a place full of charm and beauty. It is the best amalgam I could find because it contains such contrasting elements in a single entity.
Initially, I thought the Hooghly river was a copy of the Ganges, only smaller, but the more I navigate, the more I notice the important differences. Here there is much more activity and, in the absence of bridges to connect the river banks, the transport of men, things and livestock is achieved using boats. In addition, being close to Kolkata, there is also a lot of traffic. Almost nothing has changed since the old times when this was the main route for commercial traffic.
Today I also met the first cruise boat taking tourists. Who knows what ideas these tourists will form about the river!
However, there is one thing that does not change and that is the number of animal carcasses adrift on the river. I can no longer stand the view of these dead animals. Today, for the first time, I saw the body of a Ganges river dolphin. I do not know what saddened me more – witnessing the death of a dolphin which only has around 5,000 specimens left and is one of only four species of freshwater dolphin in the world, or witnessing the guy who took a selfie in front of the carcass. I watched this guy pinch his nose and signal: Okay. He seemed to be saying: ’He’s dead, there’s an awful smell but it’s alright.’
In addition to the smell, which I will leave to your imagination, this was the worst sign of degradation.
Until now I have looked at these animal bodies with a kind of sick curiosity, asking the most useless questions. Now all that remains is disgust and of all my questions, I have only one left. Why does nobody collect these carcasses?
Yesterday, I asked the boatman who accompanied Mauro the photographer on the river this question and he replied: ‘Someone down the river will pick it up.’
Yes, that’s right, wherever you go, you always expect someone else to take care of the problem. Clearly, there is no-one further down the river. Safeguarding and cleaning the environment must be an individual commitment and the responsibility of all – not something to delegate or expect someone to do for us.