Deojhar, Odisha- Beauty and the Waste | Milaap

Deojhar, Odisha- Beauty and the Waste

More than 12 years of excavation into the wild makes you somewhat fond of mammals beyond domestication and reptiles beyond house lizards. The news of the extinction of the last white rhino seeped in me quite deeply. Humans have managed to outdo the natural course of extermination and we do not even realize the impact this will bring upon our own species. Even a dreamless night as mine often wakes up with the shiver of losing the largest mammal on the bosom of Earth- The Blue Whale. To relax these tempering thoughts far beyond my own existence I gathered resources to go to Deojhar Falls, in the Cuttack district of Odisha. It was astonishing to see how the natives of Cuttack also failed to impart me with information on the area. All the more a reason to explore this unheard drop of water.

I must say the journey from the Champeshwar, the nearest bus stand, to Deojhar is such a barmecide, a perfect illusion to hide the true façade. Like most of the village routes the greenery pierces your eyes creating apathy towards the edifices.  In the cities you have to take a day out to visit a water body or hills, these lanes are blessed with both so naturally. I was thrilled by the thought of standing opposite to this huge falls; let my skin breathe in the soft touch of water. One typical feature of waterfalls is its boastful nature of resonating the sound of its majesty from far distance. As I kept trekking for about a kilometer from the point of departure, my ears were open for the sweet melody.

Deojhar is such a Barmecide! I repeat! The narrow lane that takes you to the falls is filled with more plastics and cups than dried leaves and twigs. In the entire journey of 3kms there is not a yard that is spared of the inconsiderate filth of human beings. There is no check point for Deojhar Falls, guess it is meant for the locals to enjoy or not yet brought in front line to be given attention by the Ministry of Wildlife Conservation. The scorching heat of summer was not as exasperating as the smell of urine and alcohol was. The strange thing is there are many other falls that do not directly come under the Wildlife Protection Act but are well maintained, not modernized, by the initiative of locals. The crux of the situation is the moment nature falls in the vicious circle of development it is either a puppet for tourism or playground for child-like adults.  Cuttack, being one of the largest districts of Odisha, has concentrated much on its economic development in the recent years that Deojhar Falls and its deterioration escaped the list of policy making. The local people have moved aloof of their bonding with landscape, a peculiarity of urbanization.

 The first sight of water was the cry of land mixed with the little Earth can devour. The mud-filled water gave me a rough idea that the falls inside will not be as royal as I imagined it to be. Almost intentional were the wrappers, foam plates and glasses encircling every rock and tree root that met the dry puddle. There came a point when it is tough to decide if it is funny that we are degrading the lands we walk upon or is it enraging to see our fellow species paying the cost of our actions. The route to the mouth of the falls was not crowed at all. At certain point there were a bike or two parked. Yet at every point the ghost of human madness followed me throughout.

As I went nearer to the falls I could witness only rocks. Not a faint sound of the water falling graciously from a height or a breeze of cold air in this heat. Waterfalls have a flowing property. Unlike us they eventually go and intersperse with the rivers to make them larger. The pollution near Deojhar Falls has reached such a level that the route for the water to pass by has clogged. There is only so much space rocks have between them to fit both the residue of picnic and water. As a result water puddles have formed in scattered places and dried up with the lack of rain. A cellar must have lesser wine and beer bottles than I happened to merely crack as i walked towards the mouth of the falls. It is no wrong to have a romantic evening in such a place. Where better can love be expressed while witnessing a supple sunset? This must be what poets imagine while delving into the vigor of romanticism. But when amorousness is accompanied by the evil of indiscriminate disposal of whatever is being gulped and munched, that is a criminal mindset just not established as crime.The Falls that I saw was nothing but a huge piece of rock, with slimy roots of trees hanging. The slime was the only proof that there was water once battling against this pillar. An exact picture would be a mother’s breast deprived of the mouth of her child. For the same reason the variation in bird sound was less. We can afford to buy a bottle of’ Bisleri ‘and throw that very plastic decanter amidst the course of a river. But the birds and smaller animals are dependent on natural water bodies to quench their thirst. The few young boys hanging out there were honest enough to admit that in summers this falls went dry before but for the past 3 or 4 years the falls goes into hibernation, disconnecting itself from any human contact. So, in summers Deojhar Falls is the hideout for unauthorized lovers and drinkers, group of people scavenging to adulterate through merry-making and may be one to two passersby as myself looking for some peace. It has become our habit to throw what is not needed, a part of our stimulus. Unless there are rules and fines allotted against it we consider the land to be our person bin. This falls is also home for many birds, small reptiles and mammals and aquatic genus, all a part of the collateral damage that the war humans have raised upon.

We, tourists, learn from standard 5 textbooks about the food chain and circle of life. The adjoining houses I noticed near Deojhar had their TV dishes flashing out with pride, school kids are often brought to Deojhar for picnics, and it seems the populous conveniently chose not to give enough attention to wildlife preservation.  Falls have become synonymous to the monsoons where nature ushers its shower upon us. I got a hint of this when the auto driver told me, “This place is best for monsoon”, a USP attached to nature. The tectonic, geographical, environmental and social changes that this Falls is fast going through are alarming. Odisha has already lost a dense population of its Gharials, Murals and tigers, the mammals big enough to get noticed in the chain and yet falling in line of extinction. The so-called trifling species stand at the edge of recognition itself. The little that they have left for their mating, food and survival will be obsolete if these smaller terrains are not protected by the native as well as tourists.

The empty bird’s nest I saw at my valediction was the only symbol of fauna, the mother flying distances in search of food. I do not regret that I did not achieve the resort I went looking for, a naked reality zoomed in front of me: While on one hand the highways of big cities are getting upmarket trees planted in middle, the trees and animals that are the inherent of the jungle contiguous to Falls as Deojhar are depleting singlehandedly because of the homo sapiens sapiens. Our evolution is marked by the omission of fellow species in this era of knowledge.