TODAY -

Growing up with Nambul River

Tarun Nongthombam *

A Bridge in Nambul Turel
A Bridge in Nambul Turel :: Photograph from a Danish tourist blog



Having nothing useful to do one Sunday afternoon, I stumbled on a Danish tourist blog having photos about Manipur, pictures he took of tourist places during his visit. What caught my eyes was the one about a wooden bridge across Nambul River. He goes on to write

"Another sight showing the relative lack of development. An old wooden bridge serves as a crossing point over a creek in the middle of the city. The bridge is surrounded by garbage, which no one bothers removing. The bridge itself is not without a certain charm, though."

It will be hard to disagree with him on development but what is hurting is the way we have allowed shamelessly to pollute this river and reducing it into a big sewer drain. It is also pathetic to see all of us just watch, what is truer then the Manipuri adage, "emaida hamuk teibadi khangdabani"

Having lived on the bank of Nambul, where many would pay a premium in any other city to be on a riverside but sadly for me it was downstream of khwairamband where most of the pollution starts. Growing up beside a river, there was never a dull moment though. The first advantage is having lots of free space which one would find hard to have in any other leikai. Our view of moon and stars were never blocked by any building. As a child we would make small bows and arrows with needle tip and do bow fishing. To get ngashep or ngamu shot was such a thrill, no video game would ever match.

Another task which we would often engage was building small dams across the river. We would spend hours hauling river sand just to get the thrill of crossing to the other bank with our own creative effort. The dam would not last long; how could a sand dam stay across a river? The more adventures ones would do rope walking on the cable of suspension bridge or what we call as Litan thong, never had the courage to do that myself. I remember the day someone yelled "Fire! Fire! - Nambul river on fire". How on earth a river caught fire? Thanks to the entire diesel remain discharged from keishampat substation, river was on fire. It was amusing as a child to see fire engines coming to extinguish a river fire.

As I grew little older, came those decree from my father, "son, you need to do something more useful, you can't spend all day doing bow fishing". My first real job was to do bush clearing on the river bank and start farming. We started by setting up bamboo fencing to guard our crops from barging cows. A series of spade digging followed to prepare the field for sowing potato crop". Good Lord! We would get nearly a year supply of potatoes from our farm which was little more than the size of our house. Interestingly, we could only do cultivation on the river bank area in front of our house as our neighbors' were setting up their own farms.

Take many decades back, nambul had river transportation with boats coming from loktak, mayang imphal carrying trading items to khwairamband. These were the days when imphal had no vehicle and having goods vehicle was a dream. But the biggest gift nambul gives to imphal city is taking all the rain water and acting as a sump. Imphal city would be submerged with water every monsoon without Nambul.

What happens in other cities when small water body passes through human settlement and there is heavy garbage dumping? One method generally adopted is to cover up the area with a series of box culverts and use it as a public space like car parking. This approach generally gets thumbs down from environmentalist as it breaks the serenity of river but this is likely to happen in coming years as space is becoming a scarce resource. Another approach is to wire fence certain stretch in market area to prevent people using river bank as dumping ground.

Finally, my apologies to the Danish tourist for pinching his photo and write-up but should I not thank him for reminding that our faces are not free from hamuk? I think I should.




* Tarun Nongthombam is a frequent contributor to e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at nong_tarun(at)rediffmail(dot)com
This article was webcasted on September 28 2012.


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