SAVE GANGA MOVEMENT
A GANDHIAN NON-VIOLENT MOVEMENT FOR A NON-VIOLENT CULTURE OF DEVELOPMENT
Ganga symbolizes all rivers and water bodies; 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 Save Ganga & Save Himalaya Meeting held on 12th March, 2014 at Gandhi Darshan, New Delhi
• Smt. Tara Bhattacharjee, Vice-Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson, Gandhi Smiriti & Darsan Samiti, New Delhi
• Smt. Rama Rauta, Founder and Convenor, Save Ganga Mission & Expert Member, National Ganga River Basin Authority, Govt. of India, President, National Women’s Organization, Pune
• Parampujya Swami Nikhilanandaji, Regional Head, Chinmaya Mission, New Delhi
• Parampujya Swami Chidananda Swaraswati, Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh
• Parampujya Acharya( Dr.)Sri Lokesh Muni, President, Ahimsa Vishwa Bharti, New Delhi
• Revered Imam Umer Ahmed Ilyasi, Chief Imam, All India Imam Organization
• Revered Maulana Luqman Qasimi Tarapuri, President (Gujarat) All India Imam Organization
• Revered Mohon Lal Baba
• Shri Rahul Dev, Noted Journalist
• Shri Paritosh Tyagi , Former Chairman, Central Pollution Control Board, New Delhi
• Prof. Pushpagandan ,Former Director NBRI
• Dr. Mohan Singh Rawat Gaonwasi, Former Minister of Uttrakhand
• Dr Vikash Shukla, National Mission for Clean Ganga, NGRBA
• DR JK Bassein, Deputy Director & Head NEERI (CSIR) Delhi Zonal Laboratory
• Vinod Kumar Agrawal, Mokshda, New Delhi
• Archana Vimal, Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh
Many other distinguished persons from different streams of life were also present in this Save Ganga & Save Himalayas Meeting.
There was a free frank critical discussion over the issue of what short-term and long-term time-bound course of actions we must take to save the Ganga symbolizing all rivers and water bodies and the Giriraj Himalayas, symbolizing all mountains, forests and wild-life.
There was a general acceptance of :
1) Charter of 7 Save Ganga & Save Himalayas Recommendations made at the Mumbai Gandhi Jayanti Save Ganga & Save Himalayas Function held on 2nd October 2013
2) The Save Ganga & Save Himalayas Resolution passed at the Save Ganga & Save Himalayas Function held at Gandhi Darsan, Rajghat, New Delhi on 12th March, 2011 &, 12th March, 2012
3)The Charter of Ten Demands accepted by Hon’ble Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on 12thMarch 2009.
Concluding Remarks and Recommendations:
It is deeply painful and highly deplorable that even though thousands of crores of rupees have been spent to clean the Ganga and the Yamuna, the rivers are grasping for breath under unbearable pollution, even though we know that the Ganga is the life-line of nearly 40 % of our country’s population and crores of our people consider her to be their divine mother and that the polluted water directly or indirectly causes health hazards like cancer, respiratory diseases, renal failure and much other water born or water related diseases. Although about 5 years are over since the formation of our National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) for the abatement of pollution and conservation of our National River and its tributaries, our progress towards the objective is highly insignificant. It is highly deplorable that the NGRBA has not met since April17, 2012 even after our repeated requests for it. Decisions have been taken on spending thousands of crores rupees on various projects by steering committees keeping the expert members totally dark about it. We are continuing to commit the same kind of mistakes which are responsible for the failure of our Ganga Action Plan Phase-1 and Phase-2 which poses serious threat of wastage and misuse of funds. The management of affairs related to the Ganga continues to be handled by the central and state governmental bureaucracies in the same manner as before in the case of GAP Phase-1 and Phase-2. We must not allow NGRBA to fail like our National Ganga Action Plan Phase-1 and Phase-2. NGRBA must have transparency and accountability in every sphere of its activities, which at present it does not have.
We must put moral pressure on the Government to accept and implement as soon as possible the following Save Ganga & Save Himalayas Recommendations, essentially based on the Charter of 7 Save Ganga & Save Himalayas Recommendations made at the Mumbai Gandhi Jayanti Save Ganga & Save Himalayas Function held on 2nd October 2013, the Save Ganga & Save Himalayas Resolution passed at the Save Ganga & Save Himalayas Function held at Gandhi Darsan, Rajghat, New Delhi on 12th March, 2011 &, 12th March, 2012 and the Charter of Ten Demands accepted by Hon’ble Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on 12thMarch 2009, which were circulated in the Save Ganga & Save Himalayas Meeting held at Gandhi Darsan, Rajghat, New Delhi on 12th March 2014 along with a note entitled “What we must do to save the Ganga?”.
Save Ganga & Save Himalayas Recommendations
1. The following recommendations of the Consortium of seven IITs which is preparing the Ganga River Basin Management Plan(GRBMP) must be endorsed implemented throughout our country: –
a. Ganga, the National River, must be made aviral and nirmal.
b. In place of the present practice of allowing treated sewage into the river, the policy of zero discharge into the river be adopted promoting Reuse and Recycle of wastewater after treatment up to tertiary-level. In other words, sewer and river should be separate and wastewater should be completely consumed for beneficial use in buildings and agricultural fields.
c. Industrial effluents, hospital wastes, treated or untreated, must never be allowed to enter into the rivers and must not also be allowed to mix with the sewage, which should be converted into valuable manure for organic farming. Industries must treat their effluent and use recycled water.
d. Organic farming should be promoted in a massive way for decreasing the non-point sources of pollution of rivers such as hazardous chemicals from agricultural run-off into the rivers, maintaining soil fertility, checking the groundwater degradation, reducing water requirement of corps, protecting human health, etc. Methods of irrigation need to be changed to improve recharge of groundwater and minimize abstraction from the river.
2. The bactericidal, health promoting, non-putrefying and self-purifying properties of the water of Ganga should be restored and conserved.
3. 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 wherever possible, which is the cheapest and durable and need least management and electricity, should be undertaken with the help of NBRI, Lucknow and other prominent research centers of botany and like-minded NGOs and local people. Herbal strip along the river should be promoted under the scheme of Rural Eco-friendly River Front Development of the Ganga. The 8 decades old East Kolkata Wetlands constitute an ideal example of a system of natural bio-treatment of urban waste water through “Pond System and Plant Based Management of Sewage Treatment” and recycling and utilizing the treated water for fish culture and agriculture.
4. No encroachment should be allowed on either side of the banks of Ganga within 200-300 meters.
5. The highly earthquake-prone, eco-fragile and aesthetically and religiously invaluable Uttarakhand region of the Ganga Basin must be declared “Ecologically Fragile” and all steps must be taken to preserve its rivers and vegetation in pristine condition. It would be a major step for the realization of our National Mission of saving the Himalayan Ecosystem as a part of the National Action Plan for Climate Change and also of the National Action Plan for Preservation of our Biodiversity
Since crores of our people since ages consider the entire Himalaya region of the Ganga with all its tributaries to be the zone for self purification and spiritual enlightenment (Tapo-Bhumi and Adhyatma-Bhumi), we should also declare this religiously invaluable Uttarakhand region to be our national Spiritual Heritage Zone.
We must have a high powered National Himalayan Ecology Preservation and Restoration Authority headed by Hon’ble Prime Minister to save the highly fragile invaluable ecology of the young Himalayas.
6. A holistic comprehensive scientific study should be taken up to assess as to what extent the June 2013 Uttarakhand Disaster was man-made and what needs to be done to prevent or minimize the harmful effects of such disasters in future. Such study should include the controversial issue of construction of dams or barrages in the river valley for generating hydropower. Construction of any dam or barrage in the Himalaya region of the Ganga Basin must be postponed till a decision is taken on this issue in view of (a) the recommendations of the Consortium of Seven IITs on NGRBMP based on a holistic comprehensive scientific study of the short term as well as the long term consequences of the construction of hydropower plants in the region and (b)the aforesaid scientific study into the Uttarakhand Disaster.
Although such a scientific study is absolutely necessary for the preparation of the Upper Ganga Basin Management plan, it is highly deplorable that the consortium of 7 IITs has not undertaken such a study. The Government should provide all the necessary help to the consortium of 7 IITs to complete such a study freely with dignity. Some of the important issues it must study are the following: (1)what would be the loss due to loss of the bactericidal, non-putrefying and self-purifying properties of the GANGAJAL; (2) what harm it would make to agriculture in the Ganga basin due to deprival of natural manure in the form of silt from this region; (3) what would be the cascade effects of the dams due to some major earth quake in this highly seismic zone; (4) duration and quantity of electric power from the hydroelectric plants taking into account the problem of impact of global warming on the Himalayan glaciers and the problem of massive silt formation in the dams in the Himalayan region of the Ganga Basin; (5) loss of biodiversity due to submergence of forests and loss of endangered and threatened terrestrial and aquatic species; (6) loss of livelihoods, medicinal plants, destruction of pasture lands, drying of local fresh water sources and damages to residential buildings/ hills due to blasting, and other negative environmental consequences for local communities; (7) negative effect due to release of greenhouse gases from the reservoirs; (8)loss due to depriving our coasts of nourishing sediments and leading to coastal erosion; (9) loss from the view point of aesthetics and religion.
7. The Ganga must be constitutionally declared as the National River with statutory provisions that ensure due respect and protection to her, considering her National River status analogous to the ‘Prevention of Insults to National Honor Act’ for the national flag and anthem.
8. Since the Ganga is our national river, at least the main stream of the Ganga must be maintained close to its pristine and natural state. In place of the present policy of providing “minimum e-flow”, which implies “maximum abstraction” of water from the river, there must be the policy of minimum interference with natural flow in River Ganga.
9. The National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) must take the full responsibility of the protection of our national river. Since the Ganga flows through many states, it would be the best course if NGRBA takes the full responsibility of making and keeping the Ganga and its tributaries completely and permanently free from pollution through time-bound steps, leaving no scope for the central and state government authorities blaming each other for the failures.
Like in the case of the Planning Commission, National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA), should have a Deputy Chairman.
The Expert Members of NGRBA must be given due role and importance in this organization both in decision-making and in implementation. At present they are neglected in both. NGRBA must have transparency and accountability in every sphere of its activities, which at present it does not have.
10. 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 addes to the river in the state. The NRCD must have a monitoring mechanism to regularly monitor the water quality of the Ganga at the entry and exit points of each state.
We must have a law protecting River rights, and River Guards to prevent crimes against rivers and River Courts to try crimes against rivers.
11. To begin with we must make Uttarakhand an absolutely eco-friendly ideal Himalayan state and must take time-bound decisive steps to make the Yamuna at Delhi completely and permanently free from pollution, which would set an example for the entire country. ` An adequate flow of natural fresh water must be allowed to flow on the Yamuna bed throughout the stretch of the river throughout the year not only to protect and preserve its ecology but also to meet the basic water needs of the cities, towns and villages situated on its banks.
12. 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.
Protection of the Ganga, symbolizing all rivers and water bodies, and the Giriraj Himalaya, symbolizing all mountains, forests and wildlife, must be accorded highest priority in our national development process. With the present technological advancement, development can take place along with loving care of our invaluable life-sustaining natural systems. Saving the Ganga and its tributaries and their source the Himalayas and the Godavari and Krishna and their source the Western Ghats is absolutely necessary for us to have a lasting sustainable development: it is necessary to ensure water, food¬, air¬ and health security to our masses. 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 great irreparable harm to earth’s life-sustaining natural eco-systems in search of their satisfaction is satanic and suicidal. Surely the message of enlightened desire-less unselfish ethical action of our Indian Civilization has the potentiality to save the world from the impending catastrophic global ecological crisis along with its present deep rooted all pervasive spiritual crisis. In the long term, we must make serious efforts to solve the problems of eco-hostile industrialization, urbanization, and population-growth, which constitute the root of our problem of environmental degradation in general and the slow death of our rivers in particular, by a radical change from our current ideas of development and growth to a Gandhian alternative, which essentially involves retelling the basic ethics of all great religions in the context of our technological age and which is the surest and perhaps the only solution to our impending catastrophic global ecological crisis. 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 on the basis of the knowledge about their fundamental ethical unity and truth, where development could take place with loving care of the invaluable countless kinds of flora and fauna of our life giving &life-sustaining aesthetically and religiously invaluable natural systems. (For the details about what we must do to save the Ganga and the Gandhian alternative, visit our website: www.savegangamovement.org.)
Smt Rama Rauta
Expert Member, National Ganga River Basin Authority, Govt of India
(Headed by Hon’ble Prime Minister of India)
Founder and Convener, Save Ganga Movement
President, National Women’s Organization, Pune
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