Bagmati River, Nepal - Terri-Lynn Brennan

My Watermark is the Bagmati River in Nepal.

I have had the pleasure of living on four continents so I have had the pleasure of living on the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, and Lake Ontario and St Lawrence River. And they all hold very different facets of joy for me I'm certainly a water baby at heart, I am drawn to water sources and have been all of my life.

I did want to share an experience of the one time I did not live on a large body of water I actually lived in Nepal and I lived in Kathmandu for a year of the two years that I lived in the country. I can speak certainly to the importance of clean water and water environmentalism in general and having lived in that part of Asia for an extended period of time and not only experience it and being having visibility to the deprivation of the lack of proper water, land, food, air quality and being someone who suffered from that as to why I actually left the country after two years. The experience with water in particular was most devastating in the city of Kathmandu, as a city that is at the base, or at the foothills of the Himalayas, and as a country as small as it is -- it's the size of Nova Scotia -- with an incline of 200 metres above sea level on the southern border to 8200 metres above sea level on the northern border, so the entire country is on a slope and therefore when the water comes out of the Himalayas it goes down and it's a continual flow. But in the dry season which is usually, actually, in the springtime, in April, before the rains and before the flooding actually takes place, you have this build up of environmental disaster for the water resources that run through any of the towns and the cities.

Kathmandu in particular is very famous for its Bagmati River, which comes and it is a spring-fed river of huge importance for the city of Kathmandu. As it comes into the city from the northern portion of the Foothills it's very fresh, it's very clean, but there was a lot of industrial development on the northern part of the city that already starts to contaminate it. It hits Pashupatinath, if you're familiar with Kathmandu you'll know that that is actually a Hindu ceremonial site, it's a second largest Hindu site in all of South Asia, where the Hindu custom of death brings a cremation process. The crematorium is at the edge of the Bagmati River and all of the remains of the body is then offered to the river. People will then, beside those remains, get into the river to bathe and do all of their business in the water, including all forms of urination and defecation, so by the time you hit the southern part of the city of Kathmandu, which is a very large city, the water in April is actually the consistency of tar and bubbling. And the smell is exactly how you would think it would smell. It is one of the most environmentally shocking, horrifically shocking scenes I've ever been witness to, let alone experienced for days on end until the spring flood comes and the spring rains. The poverty rate of Nepal -- it was the fifth poorest country in the world until very recently, I think it's now 7th. Life expectancy of Nepalis is very low due to the water conditions but it's also a factor what their air and their land conditions are also an equivalent to that level of deprecation, if you will.

So that is kind of my negative Watermark BUT it speaks to the importance of this work. Globally. We take for granted the water in countries such as ours everyday. Again, as someone who's lived on four continents, I’ve watched environmental degradation in Egypt as well and could speak for hours on the level of contamination in the Nile Valley, especially. It is shocking how people who don't live outside of Canada don't understand how good we got it and even then we still don't fight hard enough for what we got. So if anything, people, just go to Kathmandu in April, trust me you'll come back fighting tooth-and-nail for the water that you got. Thank you.

Dana Jackson
Terri-Lynn Brennan

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