Over the past three years, volunteers led by the NGO Jeevitnadi, have been cleaning small stretches of the Mutha river in Pune.Aditi Deodhar, founder-director of Jeevitnadi, a Mathematics graduate who worked in the IT industry for a while, realised the extent of pollution in Pune rivers after a course at the Ecological Society of India, Pune. During her leisure time, she would research about the issues of rivers with an aim to create an informal group of people to do something to address the pollution.Professionals working in the environmental sector were roped in to amp up the cleaning efforts and techniques like using stones to channelise the water and adding aquatic plants, to improve the flow of water in streams and reduce pollution.Three years on, efforts have now started showing results. The streams are providing cleaner water to the river, stench from the rivers has reduced and the perception of locals towards the wetland has also changed, with regular visitors along the stretch. One of the five major rivers originating from Pune district, Mutha has lost its glory because of increasing water pollution and a lack of conservation efforts from the authorities. But some stretches of the river are seeing a revival through the efforts of a group of volunteers that are cleaning up the banks of the river and also improving the ecosystem of the water body. Starting in 2017, three volunteers of the NGO Jeevitnadi, would get together each week to clean small stretches of the river. Over the years, it has evolved into a larger wetland conservation project and has volunteers from different walks of life. Aditi Deodhar, founder-director of Jeevitnadi who leads the effort, stated that during their Sunday clean-up drives, they identified two streams flowing into the river stretch near Vitthal Mandir at Hinge Khurd that carried sewage water. “As the flow contained polluted and sewage water, the river started giving off a foul smell and the local residents had then turned it into a dumping ground. The natural streams too were seen clogged at places, changes in topography owing to human interventions and waste matter,” she added. This became part of Jeevitnadi’s ‘Adopt a Stretch’ programme in which they took up a particular stretch of the river and involved like-minded residents and experts to give shape to it with the hope of being able to swim in the same river one day. The Mutha river near Pune Municipal Corporation. Untreated sewage is the biggest cause of pollution in the Mutha river. Photo by Rsrikanth05/Wikimedia Commons. Aside from this stretch of Mutha river, Jeevitnadi is also working on stretches of Mula, Ramnadi and Pavana river in and around Pune city. Some of the work has been temporarily on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdown. The Mutha river originates at Vegare village upstream of Temghar dam in the Western Ghats. It flows to Temghar and then small tributaries like Ambi and Moshi join and reach Khadakwasla. It then flows from Shivane to Nanded city, Vitthalwadi to further down to Mhatre Bridge, S.M. Joshi bridge, Sambhaji Garden, and converges with Mula river at Sangam Ghat near COEP College and is then known as Mula-Mutha, where it flows along Bund Garden and joins Bhima river near Shirur. Between Vegare and Sangam bridge, the Mutha river flows a distance of 50 km with about 15 km flowing through Pune city, which it formally enters at Warje bridge, as per municipal limits. Untreated sewage is the biggest cause of pollution in the Mutha river. Sewage treatment plants don’t entirely treat the sewage and an estimated 30% of sewage enters the river untreated sewage water is the cause of high dissolved oxygen (DO) levels in the river. Other causes include industrial pollution owing to the cotton industry, solid waste dumped by residents or religious waste and wastewater from residential societies.