|Report 2014: Pune Seminar|
Report on 30th January 2014 Seminar cum Panel Discussion at Gandhi National Memorial, Aga Khan Palace, Pune 411006.
Theme: See below the thematic note of the seminar.
Summary of proceedings: The Seminar began with the welcome address by Smt. Rama Rauta who co-ordinates this annual function for the past several years. Smt Shobhna Tai Ranade presided in the Morning S.ession and Dr Shyam Asolekar presided in the afternoon Panel Discussion. Hon'ble Justice P.V. Sawant was the Chief Guest.
Referring to how the cause of rivers must be supported from a wider depth and width of stake holders who are non-political, scientific and spiritual she spoke of the slow progress of the Ganga Action Plan and the recurring flaws there. A ray of hope is the consortium of 7 IITs. It is necessary to completely review and reform the state and national approaches to protection and restoration of rivers in the light of NGRBMP of the consortium of 7 IITs. There is a need for a River Basin Authority for Krishna & Godavari Rivers to implement the reformed approach and this would create a good example for the rest of the nation. She spoke of the need to be comprehensive in a nala to nadi approach and to focus on policy and implementation matters at an institutional level supported by and pushed by a pressure group of enlightened and integrated citizens and experts. She deeply agrees with the Gandhian view that the culture of having unlimited desires and going to the ends of the earth with the help of science and technology causing great irreparable harm to earth's life-sustaining natural eco-systems in search of their satisfaction is satanic and suicidal, and considers the Gandhian alternative to it, which essentially involves retelling the basic values of all great religions in the present context, to be the surest and perhaps the only solution to our impending catastrophic global ecological crises.
Dr Shyam Asolekar: Keynote Address
He emphasized the need for base data, especially river flow data and rainfall data, for every river from local to state to national with the help of government and experts and that a model of any one significant river must be developed as a pilot project. The current approach of merely flushing away or diluting the urban wastes outside city and urban limits for the downstream population to suffer the pollution will not do. He spoke of Gyaan, Jap, Yagya, Tapas outlining an ethical responsibility where perfect knowledge (Gyaan), perfect reiteration till all population in the basin has the knowledge (Jap), perfect keeping aside of vested interests and contractor interests and corrupt interests as a tyaga to bring forth only selfless service to rivers and river basin populations (Yagya) and relentless action in team effort for decades together (Tapa) as the approach in social and ethical engineering needed to complement application of innovative technologies. His discussions ranged up to the need to be concerned for the polluted coastlines too where livelihood is seriously threatened by pollution. All this while he maintained that the financial enabling of apt solutions would also be a front to bring into control. He concluded with the need for every citizen to join pressure groups as part of constitutional duty and quoted how the constitution lays the responsibility of wildlife and environment protection and restoration with every citizen.
Shri Vidyanand Ranade:
He gave a scientific exposition of the Upper Bhima River Basin (a subset of the Krishna River Basin) and primarily highlighted how the urban-rural conflict for water was on the verge of becoming a serious crisis. He also brought forth the direct connection between rural-urban migration and how this was going to bring more pressure on urban rivers and hence was going to increase the pollution crisis for the downstream populations.
Hon'ble Justice Shri P.B. Sawant:
Referring to chipko movement and the ‘vrukshavalli amha soyari vanachari' culture of Maharashtra Saints he spoke of the need for a satyagraha without delay for the protection and restoration of river health else the damage would soon become irreversible. He maintained that there are, for example, abundant natural resources for our substantial adivasi population which has always sufficed but since mismanagement by government the crisis of scarcity gets created. Only a concerted and enlightened responsibility taken by the people will make the government heed and reform its approaches. He spoke of the need to educate at length the younger generation who could be depended upon to bring energy and public pressure to meaningful volumes and effectiveness.
Justice Sawantji spoke of the three obstacles to zero-discharge of pollution into rivers as
i. economic realities of capitalism which is profit oriented and exploitation oriented for benefit of few vested and entrenched interests
i. Regulate all aspects of consumerism through inner and outer discipline
He again said that simple living high thinking, organized force of enlightened people and a national satyagraha movement would alone see us through the task of protecting and restoring the purity, health and sanctity of rivers.
Prof. R.N. Mishra:
Spoke of original Indian culture being forest culture with a respect for nature and interdependence of facets of nature. He spoke of how this later changed to river valley culture and shifted us away from very direct contact with the river once the water began to reach us through pipes at home. The rural population is still in contact with nature and he spoke of the need for powerful rural awakening as important to an Indian Response to the rivers under threat of pollution exploitation and encroachment.
Shri Sandeep Joshiji:
Dr Sandeep Joshi of SERI spoke of the efficacy of Bio-Remediation with reference to the experiments of Green bridge which have succeeded at Ayyad River (Rajasthan) and are currently being applied to the pollution crisis at the Budhanala River of Ludhiana. He spoke with emphasis of mind set change needed in the Government at senior levels and how the innovative technologies which are proving themselves should be given a chance to demonstrate their low-cost bio-remediation efficacy.
Shri Vinod Bodhankar:
Shri Bodhankar of Jalbiradari very briefly spoke of the children's movement named Sagarmitra where 60,000 students in 60 Pune Schools have fetched 15 tons of clean and dry waste plastics from home to school for handing over to recycling thus saving about 150 kms of urban river stretches from pollution by that plastic. It was presented as one of the attempts to involve the young generation of Pune in direct and effective ethical-service to the rivers whose result can be seen directly and quickly by the teams of students.
Dr.S.N.Kaul: Like the Consortium of the7 IITS, he considers the policy of Zero discharge into our rivers to be the best policy to deal with the problem of pollution of our rivers.
Smt Shobhana Ranade:
Acknowledging the need for concerted action to save the rivers she emphasized the need to understand the diversity of issues related to rivers - illustrating by referring to Narmada Prikrama as the example of how study of a river involves study of the entire river basin population through personal travels in the basin
She spoke of Brahmaputra and the associated issues of flooding and how international issues on sharing of river waters such as with Bangladesh were also part of the equation to be resolved. Compassion, study, patience, sincerity, hard work and GOING TO THE PEOPLE would alone help the leaders of the national movement to save the rivers with the Gandhian strength to bring about comprehensive transformations - sampurna vyuavastha parivartan through vayaktik parivartan (changing oneself) - BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE.
She reminded how Rivers are accepted as being feminine and how empowerment of women was directly linked to the saving of Rivers and the resolving of water-scarcity in all dimensions including availability of underground water in rural areas.
RESOLUTION: At the conclusion, the following resolution was adopted unanimously:
1. With the objective to make the Godavari & Krishna and their tributaries free from pollution completely and permanently within 5 years in Maharashtra, a high-powered committee of proven ability and moral character under the chairmanship of the Chief Minister must be formed. Eminent scientists, environmentalists, and social activists of proven ability and moral character should be invited to the Committee. Like National Ganga River Basin Authority ( NGRBA) of Govt. of India at the national level, Maharashtra must have a planning, financing, monitoring and coordinating high powered Maharashtra River Conservation Authority( MRCA) to insure effective abatement of pollution and conservation of its rivers through adopting a river basin approach for comprehensive holistic planning and management.
2. The policy of allowing treated municipality sewage or industrial effluents into our rivers is absolutely wrong in the contest of our country: it is anti common people (Aam Janta).
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, which should be converted into valuable natural manure for organic farming. Industries must treat their effluents and use only the recycled water. 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, sewage from the cities and towns, treated or untreated, must not also be allowed to enter into the rivers. Sewers must be separated from rivers and sewage must be converted into manure producing electricity in the process wherever possible.
3. Treatment of the sewage for converting it into natural manure through "Pond System" and "Plant Based Management of Sewage and Waste Treatment," which are cheapest and durable and need least management and electricity, should be preferred wherever possible.
A massive time-bound plantation programme on the banks of the Godavari & Krishna and their tributaries, along with the development of constructed wetlands for sewage treatment in major cities and towns on the banks of the rivers, should be undertaken with the help of NEERI, Nagpur, NBRI, Lucknow, I.I.T. Mumbai along with other prominent research centers of environmental science/ engineering from our universities/ colleges and various like-minded NGOs and local people. They should network and collaborate with each other to play the central role to clean the rivers within five years with the help of a culture of GPPP (Government, Private, and Public Participation.)
4. Entry of hazardous chemicals from agricultural run-off into the rivers must be prevented through promotion of organic farming in a massive way
5. There should be disincentives in the form of proper fines to the cities/towns in proportion to the quantity and quality of pollution a city/town has added to the river which flows through or near it. There should be a monitoring mechanism to monitor regularly the water quality of the rivers at the entry and exit points of each major polluting city/town.
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. Teaching environmental ethics without discussing various fundamental questions concerning moral and spiritual values, and the value and means of ethical life would be of little significance. 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.
Let Maharashtra, the land of so many great saints and social reformers, provide the nation and through it to the world at large an example of an eco-friendly nonviolent culture of development with absolutely zero river pollution. To begin with, let us make Pune, the cultural capital of Maharashtra, a perfectly river friendly city with zero river pollution. Protection of all the rivers and water bodies must be accorded highest priority in our development process. Ultimately, we must create a new paradigm of development for India based on Gandhian principles of Truth and non-violence.
(B)The Consortium of IITs which is preparing the Ganga River Basin management Plan(GRBMP) has also strongly recommended the following: (1) we must adopt the policy of zero discharge into the river, (i.e. discharge of any wastewater or industrial effluents to the river whether treated or untreated must be completely prohibited), and promote Reuse and Recycle of wastewater after proper treatment, (tertiary-level treatment); (2) we should promote organic farming for decreasing the non-point sources of pollution of rivers such as hazardous chemicals from agricultural run-off into the rivers, and also maintaining soil fertility, checking the groundwater degradation, reducing water requirement of corps, protecting human health, etc.; and (3)industries must treat their effluents and use only the recycled water.
Thematic Note of the Seminar
In the one day Save Ganga & Save Himalayas Meeting-Cum-Panel Discussion organized on 2nd October 2013 at Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti, it was unanimously accepted that like National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA), we must now have a National Godavari and Krishna Rivers Basin Authority (NGKRBA) to insure effective abatement of pollution and Preservation and Restoration of the rivers and their source, the invaluable ecology of the Western Ghats, through adopting a river basin approach for comprehensive holistic planning and management. It was deeply agreed that Saving the Ganga and its tributaries and their source the Himalayas, and the Godavari and Krishna and their source the Western Ghats would be a major step in the direction to have long-term sustainable development in our country. (A copy of the Charter of 7 Save Ganga & Save Himalayas Recommendations made at the Mumbai-Gandhi Jayanti Function on 2nd October 2013 is attached herewith.)
We must adopt throughout our country the policy of zero discharge of treated or untreated sewage, industrial effluents, hospital wastes, etc. into the rivers, and promote in a massive way Reuse and Recycle of wastewater after proper treatment and conversion of sewage into natural manure, and also organic farming for decreasing the non-point sources of pollution of rivers and maintaining soil fertility, checking the groundwater degradation, reducing water requirement of crops, protecting human health, etc., which the Consortium of 7 IITs preparing the Ganga River Basin Management Plan(GRBMP) has strongly recommended in its Draft Reports submitted to MoE&F. Unfortunately our government agencies throughout the country are continuing to commit the same kind of mistakes which are responsible for the failure of our Ganga action plans( phase-1 and phase -2), which poses serious threat of wastage and misuse of funds. We must take necessary steps as soon as possible to correct the mistakes. We firmly believe that the course of actions which were unanimously accepted here in the seminar-cum-panel discussion held on the occasion of Punyatithi of Bapuji on 30th January 2011, 2012, 2013 and submitted to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra as an appeal to save the rivers of Maharashtra, to be necessary to save the rivers of Maharashtra. (A copy of the appeal is attached/ enclosed here with.)
Neither Gandhiji nor the seers of various great religions would approve the present culture of development of modern western civilization which has caused disappearance of tens of thousands of plant and animal species and continues to cause greater and greater violence to our life-sustaining natural systems, which has devastating implications in the long run for our future generations as well as for the entire life world. Gandhiji's thought does provide, as an alternative to it, a non-violent form of development, which essentially involves retelling the basic ethics of all great religions in the context of our present technological age, and which is the surest and perhaps the only solution to our impending catastrophic global ecological crisis. (For a discussion on this issue please see the note "Gandhian Solution of Global Environmental Crisis" in our website, www. savegangamovement.org."). We must reflect over the Gandhian view that the culture of having unlimited desires and going to the ends of the earth with the help of science and technology causing even great irreparable harm to earth's life-sustaining natural eco-systems in search of their satisfaction is satanic and suicidal. "Man's happiness really lies in contentment. He who is discontented, however much he possesses, becomes a slave to his desires.... The incessant search for material comforts and their multiplication is an evil."
The great teachers and seers of our ancient Indian civilization explicitly accept universal non-violence, i.e. non-violence to both human and non-human life, to be the foundation of ethics. They see clearly that a life of perfect enlightened selfless ethical universal love and renunciation (desirelessness) constitutes the core of the ultimate goal of life, i.e. of liberation, and pursuit of selfless ethical life of love, serving selflessly to society to the best of one's ability through some work required for the general good and making constant effort to progress towards ethical perfection, constitutes the core of its means. They see clearly that enlightened unselfish ethical life of love is intrinsically blissful and that a liberated life is eternally the best form of life: the happiness which intrinsically involves in such a life is of the highest kind and everlasting. They see clearly that our love for human beings is bound to be highly imperfect if we interact cruelly with our fellow non-human beings. They see clearly that any person through conscious effort can pursue liberation and progress towards it from evil to good life, from selfish good life to unselfish good life, from unselfish good life to enlightened selfless good life and from it finally to liberated life. They see clearly that such a human life involves selfless ethical service to humanity and its fellow creatures to the best of one's ability in the best possible way, whether the contribution it makes for the betterment of the life-world is very high or very low. They explicitly accept that pursuit of wealth and pleasure within the limits of ethics is essential not only for the pursuit of the ultimate goal of life, but also for lasting development, prosperity, peace and happiness in society. Gandhiji sees clearly that all great religions also explicitly or implicitly accept the same.
Let India provide the world a culture of non-violence and Truth, i.e., the true Ultimate meaning of life, in the context of our present technological age, where all religions could grow harmoniously in spite of their differences in the realm of metaphysics, and where development could take place with loving care of the invaluable countless kinds of flora and fauna of our life-sustaining natural systems. Surely Maharastra, the land of so many great saints and social reformers, has the moral and spiritual resources to provide the nation an ideal example of an eco-friendly nonviolent culture of development with absolutely zeros river pollution. To begin with, let us make Pune, the cultural capital of Maharashtra, a perfectly river friendly city with zero river pollution.