A Report of “Save the Rivers Campaign”
A Tribute to Scientist Saint G D Agarwal
Gram Seva Sangh organised a ‘save rivers campaign’ on the 1st of December at Gandhi Bhavan, as a tribute to G. D. Agarwal, the environmental engineer, professor and activist who had sacrificed his life for Ma Ganga. The river Ganges is not just a flowing water body but also a source of spiritual trust for millions of Indians who, ironically, are themselves responsible for the river’s exploitation.
Prasanna, the well-known playwright and director was the moderator of the event. He welcomed the guests and presented his thoughts on how our culture and tradition are intertwined with the life of rivers and how reviving one would lead to the rescue of the other. He pointed out that Karnataka was on the verge of desertification after Rajasthan.
Sri Panditaradhya Shivacharya Swamiji described how minimalism and a simple life are the solutions to our current problem of deterioration of natural resources. Our resources that were once revered are now looked at through the lens of exploitation, the root cause of our societal problems. Spirituality and science are meant to be integrated, science is not a standalone show and was never supposed to be.
VishwanathSrikantaiah, water activist and columnist for The Hindu, dubbed as “Zenrainman” threw light on the rivers being the final points for every human activity. Till 1947 India had 370 dams but today, we have more than 6000 dams. He raised three important issues – “Can the dam building spree be reversed? Can we reverse the process of taking water for irrigation for water-guzzling crops like paddy and sugarcane? India is a predominantly ground water dependent civilization.” He beautifully narrated the language of a well which speaks to us as an ecological source about the approaching season and the water availability under the ground.
Basavaraj Patil, a representative of the Rashtriya Swabhiman Aandolana from Delhi emotionally recalled his efforts to save Ganga working shoulder to shoulder with G. D. Agarwal. He emphasised on how it is our responsibility to carry forward his legacy and how his sacrifice should not go to waste but should be honoured by every Indian.
Professor M V Rajeev Gowda, the chairman of the INC R&D dept, conveyed his helplessness about how everybody wants Cauvery water but no one works the other way round to harvest the same water. He said, ”We have polluted water to the extent that we’re infamous for having lakes which catch fire.” He felt that engagement in the issue is what we need and he promised to do whatever he can in his power to reverse the negative developments.
The Environmentalist and state President of Gram SevaSangh, C. Yatiraj spoke about how the Western Ghats are the origin of most of the rivers that flow through Karnataka and yet its miserable state and exploitation is ignored by most political parties while it should be the centre of our focus. He questioned the benefit of having public debates, discourses and playing the blame game. He urged the members Gram Seva Sangh, the government and other stakeholders to act by engaging in micro and macro level projects.
B L Shankar reminisced of Malnad. The beauty of Malnad has been destroyed by abuse of ground water and the steady overuse of fertilisers and pesticides. The Malnad of today is a prominent agricultural zone. He lamented that a scientific education had done little to enhance a logical mindset. The fruit bearing trees that used to be a major part of cultivation have given way to commercial plantations of Silver trees, Nilgiris and Acacias which affects both commoners and farmers. According to him, sand mining is now a part of a mafia organization which far exceeds our requirements.
Abhijit Mitra, professor, scientist and Lokavidya activist emphasized on the significance of Lokavidya i.e. people’s knowledge. G. D. Agarwal had one major demand- stoppage of any construction upstream the holy river. He mentions that we are led by the myth that human needs are endless and unlimited, but our resources aren’t. This inculcates the belief that in order to be successful one must be driven by greed and overpower competition. Thus, we are lured and trapped by the concept of development,while with every bit of progress there is collateral damage.
Leo F Saldanha, Environmentalist and Activist focusing on citizens responsibility said Bengaluru have 30 lakh houses out of which only 1.5 lakh houses only harvesting rainwater. Even people who spends corers in building houses, wont go for harvesting rainwater it merely cost few thousand rupees. Free flowing rivers can be called as rivers, rivers stopped by big dams are dead rivers. In rivers basins stopped by dams looses bio diversity and liveliness.
Dr Wooday P. Krishna elaborated on the concept of “Sarvodaya” and how it should rule the bond between science and spirituality. The negation of spirituality from science would result in destruction and violence. He urged the gathering to work on the mobilisation of people’s strength against the power of the government and the power of violence. All politicians would encourage development, yet people seldom realise that development is mostly related to “construction and tenders” and not the welfare of citizens.
“Declutter your minds to declutter the rivers”, said Swami Shivacharya. The discussion was a wake up call for all of us on how to channel our efforts towards taking proactive measures to protect and safeguard the rivers in our country.
Gram Seva Sangh’s this effort is to strengthen the people and groups which are working towards saving rivers will continue and we are in discussion with such groups to take this forward. We will inform once such events scheduled and would like your active participation too.
- Report by Student Volunteers (Siddhant, Semanti, Suman, Deby, Veeksha, Merlin, Sudhakar, Abhiram, Mitun, Srisharan)
- Photos and videos captured by volunteers Ravi Kiran and Sanketh in addition to above student group.
- Program Jointly Organized by Gram Seva Sangh, Lokavidya Vedike, Karnataka Gandhi Smaraka Nidhi, Bharatha Yatra Kendra
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