The Stories Of Change

Heroes of the Fallen River

Shankar jee, a local diver from Delhi and his small team has been trying to save the dying Yamuna River for the past 40 years. Living in a small tin shed near the river, these gotakhors dive every day into the river in an effort to clean it. Doing small odd jobs to survive, these gotakhors have dedicated their lives unconditionally to the river close to their heart.

United Nations declared Yamuna river downstream of New Delhi officially dead in 2013. The toxic chemicals, high amount of garbage in the river and lack of proper sewer treatment plants have resulted in increasing pollution in the river. According to the report of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) 2014, the polluted stretch of Yamuna has increased from 500kms to 600kms.

However, a selfless group of people has been tirelessly working to clean the Yamuna for the past 40 years. Called “Gotakhors” (divers), these local residents of Delhi dive deep into the river every day in an effort to save this dying river. This inspiring group of people does not receive any monetary help from the government or the people. Yet, every single day they are found cleaning the river close to their heart.

“There was a time when the water was so clean that we used to catch fishes here. There were so many fishes here. Today, if the fish drinks this water, it will die,” says Shankar jee, one of the gotakhors of Yamuna.

Shankar Jee

“We notice that there is fecal of animal’s and human’s while we clean. If we leave the river for one day people will start defecating,” Shankar added.

The plastic and other wastes in the river are collected by the gotakhors and they put them into dustbins. The Gotakhors regularly ask for the support from the people to help them in cleaning the river and to coordinate with their contributions to the river Yamuna. However, people often don’t pay any heed to their words.

These gotakhors are living a life where every day is a struggle to survive and it is inspiring that they are still so devoted to the river. They find odd jobs in the city to earn for survival. This small effort is lead by an amazing dreamer of a man Shankar jee. The dedicated gotakhors don’t even have proper accommodation and they are often found spending the night under a tiny tin shed.

Meghatithi Kabeer, an independent documentary film highlighted Shankar’s efforts in his film “Yamuna Ke Gotakhor- Heroes of the Fallen River”.

“Four years back since the day I have met these ‘Gotakhors’ I have been trying my best to support them to keep their movement and space alive. It’s a dream we (Shankar ji & me) imagine each time we meet that one day we shall see this river come alive,” Meghatithi said.

Shankar jee, with support from Meghatithi is trying to develop Nizamuddin Bridge Sai Ghat (river bank you see in the film) into a model green and clean ghat lead and maintained by the gotakhors.

Meghatithi has personally contributed Rs 20,000 to support Shankar jee and is looking for further support to provide a humble accommodation to the gotakhors near the river.

“It’s a very small hut/ room we are trying to make for Shankar jee. I am only collecting money for materials like bricks, little labor costs, etc.,” Meghatithi added.

If you’d like to support Shankar in his efforts, you can get in touch with us and we will help you reach out to Shankar jee and his team. You can email us at-

Watch the touching documentary

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Chaithra Srinivas

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