Revitalizing Our National Treasures – Rivers, Water Bodies and Soil
At the culmination of the month-long Rally for Rivers journey across the country, the Revitalization of Rivers in India Draft Policy Recommendation was presented to the government on October 3, 2017. Want to learn more about exactly how this multi-faceted approach will aid India’s rivers? We’ve provided a series of excerpts from the document for you to explore. In Part 1, Sadhguru prefaces the policy recommendation with an appeal that our rivers be treated as national treasures.
Sadhguru: My engagement with mountains, forests and rivers goes back to my early childhood – not just in terms of nature and its resources that one enjoys, but as experiencing them as an integral part of myself. With four truck tubes and bamboo poles tied together, I have traversed the river Cauvery for 13 days alone. I saw the river as a life much larger than myself. People like you and me come and go, but the river has flowed for millions of years and sustains life in proportions that you cannot imagine. A river is not a resource to me; it is an immense Life. The very nature of our existence is such that literally three-fourths of our body is water. So water is not a commodity – water is life-making material. When it is in this body, how much attachment we have towards it! When it is flowing out there, why are we treating it any differently?
In the last 25 years I have been watching with concern, the gradual depletion of river flows across the country. The flow is not one year up and one year down, but steadily, gradually depleting. Last year, this depletion has taken a very steep downturn. If our rivers deplete like this in our own lifetime, we are clearly making a statement that we are not interested in the future of our children and in the wellbeing of future generations in this land.
I am not a scientist and have no appropriate scientific knowledge or words to articulate this. But in my simple observation, I see it is lack of vegetation and excessive groundwater exploitation that have together wrought havoc upon our rivers. When there is not enough vegetation, especially in a tropical climate, the soil will turn into sand. Soil and rivers are deeply connected. If we deplete our soil, we will also deplete our rivers. This is what has happened to us today – our water bodies have depleted and our soil is degraded.
The greatest achievement in this country has been that our farmers – without much infrastructure, without any science, with just traditional knowledge – have been able to provide food for 1.3 billion people of this nation. But depletion of organic content in the soil and inadequate water has driven our farmers into a corner, and suicides are becoming common. If you and I were asked to produce food from a land with no fertility and not enough water, we would also be driven to do the same. The farmer, who gives us food and who nourishes our life, is barely nourished himself, and his children are starved. How can we walk with our heads held high when we know that the one who provides food for us is starved to a point where he wants to take his own life? This is a point of great shame. I put my head down in shame, because somehow we have not been able to take care of this. The majority of the population in the country is involved in farming.
There is a phenomenal amount of knowledge in the farmer because of a history of 8,000 to 12,000 years of agriculture. There is a samskara of agriculture in them. It is not just hard work – there is a knowledge that we have taken for granted. Only less than 15% of farmers wish for their children to get into farming. If we do not create the right situation for them, if we do not harness this knowledge now, it may be lost forever. Using our farmers’ traditional knowledge in improving soil, augmenting the source of water by vegetating the land in all possible ways, and managing water use with appropriate modern technologies is the way forward.
The solution we are proposing is that for at least one kilometer-width on either side of all major rivers, and at least five hundred meters for smaller rivers, the land must have tree cover. The land should be under shade so that organic material in the soil can build up. Only then will the soil retain water and allow it to percolate into the river. Where the government owns the land, afforestation is a must. Where farmers own the land, they must transition from regular crop farming to tree-based agriculture. This shift is a better economic proposition for an Indian farmer, as it can multiply his income at least 3 to 5 times.
This Draft Policy Recommendation is an effort to make the solution into an economic policy with significant ecological impact. It is an outcome of our consultation with specialists from various fields of expertise and experience, taking into consideration the interest of all stakeholders: the first and foremost stakeholder being the river; then the life sustained by the river; then the farmer; the larger community; and the governments – state and central. Making this into an implementable and enforceable policy is the prime goal. The scientific team or I myself shall always be available to clarify any aspects that need elaboration.
Over millennia, for generations, our rivers have embraced us and nourished us. A time has come when we have to embrace and nourish our rivers. It is our humble hope that the needed legislative and administrative steps will be taken as per our suggestions and will be made into a mandatory law. Let us move towards making a law that will treat our rivers, water bodies and soil as national treasure.
Editor’s Note: The above content is an extract from the Revitalization of Rivers in India Draft Policy Recommendation. If you are concerned about India’s rivers, the simplest way you can participate in revitalizing them is by giving a missed call to 80009 80009. Find out how a missed call will help in saving our rivers.