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The soil “measures” the health of the river



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Days like this – where you bust your butt – will always come.

The current has been intermittent since this morning and by the end of the day it was rather like going on a treasure hunt. For an hour or so, the favourable current was on the right-hand side of the river, then suddenly ripples would form on the surface – like crazy fish – and soon the current was opposite to my navigation. To make progress, I had to move to the other side of the river. It took me a while to learn this trick, however, and it was only thanks to the intervention of a fisherman that I made the change.

Seeing me in difficulty and stuck in the same place for at least 30 minutes – frustrated and in pain – he made it clear that the best current was on the other side of the river. With the only Indian word I have learned so far, I answered ‘tike’ which means okay. He replied with a wave of his hand – as if he was sending me into hell. From that moment on, a dance began as I moved from right to left across the river. I think the closer I get to Kolkata and the sea, the more frequent and stronger these tests will become. I must be prepared, but I’m also convinced part of the problem is caused by the irregular and uneven seabed. Tomorrow I will try to figure it out.

Today I took my first photograph of a buffalo carcass. A horrendous experience, I must admit. I think he drowned. Maybe he went down to the river to submerge himself and escape the heat, but couldn’t get out. This morning I was collecting a sample of sediment and the same thing almost happened to me! Luckily I saved myself by clinging to an oar.

The seabed is so muddy that on some stretches it looks like quicksand. Regarding the sediment, I collect about 100cc once a day, which will eventually be analysed by the University of Padua. The soil, not the water, is the thermometer that measures the health of the river because soil absorbs and retains contaminating agents longer than water. The aim of the research is to measure how the concentration of pollutant changes in various parts of the river. I look forward to reading the results.

 - 10 Rivers 1 Ocean
 - 10 Rivers 1 Ocean
photo credit: Alex Bellini