Save Ganga Movement

Yatra Report 2010

                    

                       SAVE GANGA MOVEMENT                        

                 A GANDHIAN MOVEMENT FOR A NON-VIOLENT CULTURE OF DEVELOPMENT  

The Ganga, symbolizes all rivers and water bodies;  the Giriraj Himalaya, symbolizes all mountains, forests and wildlife; Gandhi symbolizes a culture of Truth and non-violence, i.e. a culture of pursuit of ethical perfection as the ultimate goal of  life and   pursuit of selfless ethical life of universal love as its means   

Report on the 1st and 2nd Phases of the Save Ganga & Save Himalaya Yatra                                     from Badrinath to Rameswar                                                   

1st Phase of the Yatra 

 

The 1st Phase of the Yatra (Badrinath to Hardwar) commenced with a Gita- Jnana Maha Yagna from 21st to 24th October 2010 at Chinmaya Vidyalaya, Vasant Vihar, New Delhi. A special feature at the venue was an Exhibition dedicated to Save Ganga & Save Himalayas. Every evening Param Pujya Swami Tejomayanandaji, Worldwide Head of Chinmaya Mission discoursed on ‘The Glories of Krishna’ based on Chapter X of the Bhagavad Gita. In chapter X of the Bhagavad Gita Lord Krishna reveals to Arjuna that not only the human kingdom but also plants, trees, birds, animals, mountains, rivers are divine manifestations. The world must be respected and served as the very manifestation of the Lord. In modern western civilization, the culture of development treats Nature as an adversary to be subdued and conquered. The Vedanta approach to development considers Nature as friend and benefactor, and is compassionate in its dealings with the animal and plant kingdom.

Eminent experts from the field of environment spoke on the Save Ganga Save Himalaya. Param Pujya Swami Nikilanandaji in his welcome speech in Delhi said that Chinmaya Mission is devoted to the mission of the Save Ganga Movement. It is committed to bringing back Mother Ganga to its original immaculate form - aviral and nirmal. He emphasized the significance of the role that spiritual leaders can play for this noble cause. Smt Tara Gandhi Bhattacharyaji, Chairperson, Save Ganga Movement, said that external impurity is the manifestation of impurity of mind. We must take the necessary steps to create a culture of mental purification.  Dr. G.D. Agarwal opined that there should be no construction of any dams on the Bhagirathi, Alakanada or Mandakini. The main stream of the most sacred river mother Ganga must be maintained close to its pristine and natural state. Shri M.C.Mehta, Dr. P. Pushpangadan and Mrs Rama Rauta focused on the great importance of making our national river a naturally flowing fresh and clean river (Aviral & Nirmal Ganga) from the respective viewpoints of law, science, and ethics. An anthology entitled, “Unto Mother Ganga” published by Central  Chinmaya Mission Trust  was released on the occasion.

On 26th October, there was a Save Ganga Seminar at Haridwar organized by NBRI, Lucknow and hosted by Chinmaya Vidyalaya followed by a Save Ganga & Save Himalaya Meeting held at Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh on 27th October. The first phase of the Yatra concluded with a Save Ganga & Save Himalaya workshop held at HNB Central University, Srinagar on 29th October (organized by HNB Central University).

At the Haridwar seminar, Dr. P. Pushpangadan and Dr U.N.Rai talked about the importance of undertaking a massive time-bound plantation programme on the banks of the river Ganga from Gangotri to Ganga Sagar along with the development of constructed wetlands for sewage treatment in major cities on the banks of the river. Plants will bring rain, retain water, check soil erosion and the roots of the plants will penetrate in the soil and control pollution.  Treating the sewage through this low capital and carbon negative technology is durable and needs least management and electricity and provides opportunity in employment generation. The project aims to promote this small-scale, low capital and carbon negative technology among the rural population as a model. Dr Vinod Tare expressed the view that even if we construct dams with the best technology available, the life period of a dam in the highly seismic and slit producing Uttarakhad region of the Ganga would not be more than some decades. He further stressed on the fact that we should not touch things that we don’t understand. Himalayan ecology is very complex and we should not experiment with development activities there. There is a big possibility that Tehri dam may have to be decommissioned due to its implied environmental hazards. Mrs Rama Rauta said, “Since the ill conceived various dam projects for hydroelectricity on the Ganga and its tributaries such as Alakananda, Mandakini etc. in the Uttarakhand region of the Ganga would cause massive and permanent harm to their invaluable ecology and the region is highly seismic and eco fragile, their construction must not be allowed. Efforts must also be made as soon as possible to rectify the past mistakes as far as possible”. Dr S.P. Singh talked about the importance of green economy and green development and said that there should be disincentives in the form of proper fines to the states in the Ganga basin in proportion to the quantity and quality of pollution   a state has added to the river in the state.  There should be a monitoring mechanism to regularly monitor the water quality of the Ganga at the entry and exit pints of each state.

At the Rishikesh meeting, Param Pujiniya Swami Chidanand Muni  talked about the role and  importance of Mahatma Shakti, Mahila Shakti and Media Shakti (3Ms) in making the national river aviral & nirmal. Dr Jhunjhunwala, Shri A.P. Bhat, Prof. S.K.Singh, Dr Mohan Singh Panwar, Sri Mohan Singh Rawat Gaonvasi and Prof. Rajavashista Tripathy were amongst the distinguished speakers at the HNB seminar. They talked about the great irreparable damage being done or to be done to the invaluable ecology of the Ganga and the Himalaya, by constructing dams in Uttarakhand.

It was essentially agreed that the highly earth quake prone, eco-fragile Uttarkhand region of the Ganga Basin must be declared “Ecological Fragile” and its rivers “wild river”  and all steps must be taken to protect them  and the  natural eco-systems they  support. Since Uttarakand provides water for crores of people and considered to be the Tapo-bhumi and Adhyatma- bhumi of our country since time immemorial, the central government must provide all help to make it an ideal eco-friendly Himalayan state. There was also general agreement to Dr Jhunjhunwala’s view that till the groups of the IITs complete the GRBMP work assigned to them, no new project should be undertaken. There is no point in investing crores of rupees in a project and later dismantling it because of the hazards it can cause.                                             

                                                    

    2nd Phase of the Yatra

 

The 2nd phase of the Yatra commenced with a  ‘Save Ganga-Yamuna Workshop’ organized by Guild Services at Ma Dham Ashram, Vrindavan on 5th Dec, 2010 followed by a seminar on ‘Aviral and Nirmal Ganga’ at IIT Kanpur on 7th Dec, 2010. There were Save Ganga Public Meetings and addresses on 8th and 9th Dec, at Allahabad, organized by Dr Ashoka Shrichad, Ganga Sewak Samaj and Chinmaya Mission. On 10th Dec, Sankat Mochan Founation   organized a Save Ganga Meeting at Varanasi to welcome Save Ganga Movement. The 2nd phase of the Yatra concluded with a seminar at BHU, Varanasi on 11th Dec.

In the Vrinadvan seminar, Dr Mohini Giri delivered her welcome speech and stressed on the fact that water is essence of every human beings’ life and it is for our own self that we are fighting for its identity. Smt Rama Rauta, Convener of Save Ganga Movement & Expert Member NGRBA, Govt. of India, said that Industrial effluents, hospital wastes, treated or untreated, must not be allowed to enter into the rivers and must not also be allowed to mix with the sewage. Since our rivers are the source of drinking water for crores of our common people and also for the animals and STPs cannot convert sewage into potable water, sewers must be separated from rivers and sewage must be converted into manure. She said   that  considering it to be wrong to construct dams in the highly seismic, eco fragile Uttarakhand  region of the Ganga, which would also cause great harm to its  invaluable ecology, the central Govt. has rightly decided to cancel the proposed Loharinag Pal, Bhaironghati and Pala Manari hydroelectricity dam Projects on the river Bhagirathi.  For the same reason the ill conceived various dam projects for hydroelectricity on the Alakananda and Mandakini must not also be allowed. Dr Vandana Shiva, Founder and Director, Navdhanya, delivered the keynote address in Vrindavan and was the chief guest at IIT Kanpur. She put thrust on the fact that continuous flow of perennial rivers like Ganga and Yamuna is also endangered as the glaciers are shrinking and we will soon  lose the identity of our rivers due to destruction we are causing to Mother Nature. Whereas construction of dams in the eco-fragile Himalayan region is concerned,  when construction of a single Tehri dam has resulted in increase of landslides, complicated village life and disturbed course of river, the destruction that will be caused by building 200 dams in this region is unimaginable. She also supported the view that sewer should not be drained into the river. Human waste is ‘Golden Manure’ and can be used in agriculture and plantation thus replacing use of hazardous artificial fertilizers. Shri MC Mehta, senior advocate, Supreme Court of India, was the chief guest in Vrindavan workshop.  He shared his experience of witnessing landslide occurrence in the initial course of Gangetic valley due to damming and de-forestation activity. He stressed on the following:

·         Industries must treat their effluents and use only the recycled water;

·         Sewage treated or untreated must not be allowed to enter into the rivers;

·         Like the planning commission, there should be a Deputy-chairman for NGRBA, whose sole and whole responsibility is towards NGRBA.

·        Analogous to the ‘Prevent of Insults to National Honor Act’ for the national flag and anthem, there should be an act for the national river Ganga.

The above mentioned act states, ‘Whoever in any public place or in any other place within public view burns, mutilates, defaces, defiles, disfigures, destroys, tramples upon or otherwise brings into contempt (whether by words, either spoken or written, or by acts) the Indian National Flag or the Constitution of India or any part thereof, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both’. When defacing the national flag or disfiguring it is considered to be a crime, how can one justify disfiguring the National River by constructing dams on it, converting its water to non-potable and shedding her off from her health promoting, non-putrefying and purifying properties? 

Dr Syeda Hammed, Member, National Planning Commission, inaugurated the workshop  at Vrindavan. She said that the Holy Quran also says that rivers are primal and should be treated with loving care and respect. Dr Apoorva Gupta was one of the main speakers in Vrindavan as well as IIT Kanpur. His presentation pictorially depicted the current condition of river Yamuna and the causes which are sewage contamination, industrial pollution, contamination due to riverbed activities, lack of dilution water, silting encroachment and monitoring. Dr Jagdish Bassin, NEERI, Delhi, presented various waste water treatment technologies and discussed in details the advantages and disadvantages of the same. He informed that that NEERI developed technologies based on Constructed (Engineered) Wetland system, which can be easily adopted in Vrindavan.  PHYTORID system has been successfully implemented at a number of places. He recommended the same at least for a stretch of river where wastewater is directly discharged in Vrindavan. Shri J.C Chaudhry, Acharya Srivats Goswami, Dr. Mira Shiva, Shree Vineet Narain, Swami B.A Paramadwati, Shree R.M Bharadwaj and Swami Mohanji were amongst the other distinguished speakers in the Vrindavan seminar. The following points were brought forth:

·         Yamuna is destroyed in Delhi itself and it is essentially sewage of Delhi which is  worshipped in Vrindavan.      

·         There should be a strict ban on plastic bags and other non-biodegradable products that cause polythene pollution in the region where Ganga and its tributaries flow.

·         Effective awareness campaigns against pollution must go on in parallel.

·         Draining of industrial effluent into rivers should be completely banned. Industries should recycle the industrial waste and use only recycled water.

·         Industrial effluents should not be allowed to mix with sewer. Sewers must be separated from rivers and sewage must be converted in to manure for agriculture and used for producing electricity in the process wherever possible.

It was decided to form a local committee in Vrindavan which will primarily focus on pollution abatement of Yamuna in Vrindavan. NEERI will be preparing the proposal for carrying out the feasibility study in the select area in this regard. The next step would be preparation of DPR, carrying out detailed engineering, and construction activities.

The main thrust of the seminar at IIT Kanpur was to separate sewer from river. Dr. Vinod Tare said that IIT is working towards preparing the proposal of completely separating sewer from river. Treated or untreated water will not be drained into the rivers. As Vandana Shiva rightly said, human waste is golden manure and can be used as fertilizers in agriculture and also for producing electricity wherever possible. The treated sewage water can be used for irrigation, gardening purposes, vehicle washing, and other daily activities which doesn’t require sweet drinking water. Public Private Partnership (PPP) is the proposed mode of setting up and operating the sewage treatment plant (STP) rather than completely depending on the local municipality authorities for its monitoring and operation. The PPP could be 70:30 partnerships between public and private. For any development project, environment investigation assessment (EIA) should be done by an independent agency and a project encompassing economic benefit and ecological sustainability should be the product of the same. Like Shri MC Mehta, he also advocated for giving national river Ganga the status of national flag.  He also gave a presentation on zero discharge toilet model engineered by IIT Kanpur.

 Dr. S.N Subba Rao was the guest of honor at IIT Kanpur seminar and the public meetings at Allahabad. He said that he is waiting for a project wherein his youth force can participate in planting and taking care of trees across Gangetic belt. It was brought forth at the Allahabad meeting that the Supreme Court order of ban on sale of gutka in plastic pouches should be strictly implemented and similar order should be passed for other items being sold in small plastic pouches that often partake in clogging the drains. Param Pujiniya Swami Chidanand Muni chaired the session at IIT Kanpur and blessed the meetings at Allahabad and Varanasi with his presence. He said that is totally devoted towards the mission of making the Ganga Avial and Nirmal.  He said that he has asked his ashram members to discontinue the rituals that results in polluting Ganga. He stressed that ‘mahila shakti’, ‘mahatma shakti’ and ‘media shakti’ have to play a very prominent role in this struggle. At the I.I.T. Seminar Mr Sandeep Joshi, SERI, Pune, gave  a presentation on plant based management of river pollution. At the Allahabad Meeting, Shri Vinod. Kumar Agarwal, president of Mokshda, gave a presentation on wood based Green Cremation System as an improvement of the traditional process of cremation.

 At the BHU Seminar, Dr Veer Bhadra Mishra talked about the importance of treating sewage through Advanced Integrated Wastewater  Pond System which he considers to be far superior to treating sewage through STPs. He said that there is a need for co-ordination and relevant people coming in one platform and collectively working towards cleaning the Ganga at Varanasi. Dr B.D Tripathi shared that the process for starting an NGRBA institute for scientific research at Varanasi is on. Dr. Ambasht said that the treated sewage water can be let into the river after making it pass through the wetland having pollution absorbing plants. Param Pujiniya Swami Avhimukteswaranandji emphasized that Ganga doesn’t need Bhagirathi but Lord Krishna for saving her. He beautifully narrated the story of Kailya nag by depicting the dirty black 100 drains as the hoods of Kaliya nag and compared the sewer to the poison bubbled out by the snake. Lord Krishna danced on the heads of Kaliya and essentially blocked the draining of sewage into the river. He also urged to fight against encroachment activity along the Ganga bed.  He also called attention to having an act for the national river Ganga in lines with the act for national flag. Smt Rama Rauta expressed the view that the spiritual leaders must take the responsibility of making the Ganga Aviral and the scientist should take the responsibility making it a river with Zero pollution: it would be their acid test. Prof. D.P. Singh, Vice Chancellor BHU, Dr. Rajavashista Tripathy, University of California University,Dr. Pawnikar, NEERI were amongst the other distinguished participant. 

                                                     General Agreements

There was general agreement on the following  points: (1) The highly earth quake prone, eco-fragile Uttarkhand region of the Ganga Basin must be declared “Ecological Fragile” and its rivers “wild river”  and all steps must be  taken to protect them  and the  natural eco-systems they  support. (2)Since our rivers are the source of drinking water for crores of our common people and also for the animals and STPs cannot convert sewage into potable water, industrial effluents and hospital wastes treated or untreated and also sewage from the cities and towns treated or untreated, must not  be allowed to enter into the rivers:  sewers must be separated from rivers and sewage must be converted into  valuable natural manure for organic farming,   producing electricity in the process wherever possible. (3) Entry of hazardous chemicals from agricultural run-of into the rivers must be prevented through promotion of organic farming in a massive way. (4) Till the group of the IITs completes the GRBMP work assigned to them, no new project should be undertaken. There is no point in investing crores of rupees in a project and later dismantling it because of the hazards it can cause as in the case of the hydroelectricity dam Projects on the river Bhagirathi or because of its failure to realize the desired objective as it was in the case of the STPs used in the GAP. (5) Analogous to the ‘Prevent of Insults to National Honor Act’ for the national flag and anthem, there should be an act for the national river Ganga. (6) Environmental ethics should be taught as a part of the syllabus on ethics which must be taught as a compulsory subject, both at the school as well as at the college level. Critical study of the views of great religions and of great teachers and thinkers of mankind about various fundamental issues of ethics would be a major step in the direction to build the moral character of our society, without which it would not be possible  for us to overcome our present deep rooted moral and spiritual crisis.

Smt. Rama Rauta
Member, National Ganga River Basin Authority, Govt of India
Convener, Save Ganga Movement
President, National Women’s Organization, Pune