Report on Save Ganga & Save Himalaya Meeting-cum-Panel Discussion on 12th March, 2015 at Gandhi Darshan, New Delhi
Topic of discussion: What must we do to save the Ganga and the Himalayas in the context of the present extremely eco-hostile, out-and-out consumerist global market culture of unlimited desires?
-Sushree Uma Bhartiji, Hon’ble Minister of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, was the Chief Guest of the function
-Smt. Rama Rauta, Convenor, Founder & Convener, Save Ganga Movement chaired the function
-Prof. Vinod Tare, Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur and Co-ordinator, Ganga River Basin Management Plan gave the keynote address.
-Parampujya Swami Nikhilanandaji, Regional Head, Chinmaya Mission, New Delhi
-Parampujya Acharya( Dr.)Sri Lokesh Muni, President, Ahimsa Vishwa Bharti, New Delhi
-Revered Imam Umer Ahmed Ilyasi, Chief Imam, All India Imam Organization, New Delhi
-Parampujya Swami Bhakt Rasmrita, ISCKON, Mumbai
-Rev. Fr. Dominic Emmanuel
-Shri Paramjeet Singh Chandokji
-Revered Acharya Vivek Muni
-Dr. Mohan Singh Rawat Gaonwasi, Former Minister of Uttrakhand, Expert Member NGRBA
-Shri M.C. Mehta, Noted Environmentalist & Supreme Court Advocate
-Shri Vinod Kumar Agrawal, Mokshda, New Delhi
-Dr. J.K Bassien, NEERI, New Delhi
-Shri Hemant Mehta, Singer & Executive Producer, Himalaya Films Media Entertainment, Mumbai
-Shri R.P Sharma, Ex. Joint Secretary, MoEF, Govt. of India
-Shri Raman Tyagi, Director, NEER Foundation, Meerut, UP
Many other distinguished persons from different streams of life were also present in this Save Ganga & Save Himalayas Meeting.
The following Save Ganga and Save Himalayas Recommendations were discussed and accepted in the Save Ganga & Save Himalaya Meeting-cum-Panel Discussion and presented to Sushree Uma Bharatiji, Hon’ble Minister of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, who was the Chief Guest of the function.
The Charter of Save Ganga and Save Himalayas Recommendations:
(1)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. The declaration of the Ganga as National River must be done by parliamentary legislation under Entry 56 of the Union List in the constitution and not by a government notification under the environmental protection act.
(2). We must accept the recommendation of the consortium of 7 IITs that (A)in place of the present policy of allowing treated sewage into our rivers, we must adopt the policy of zero discharge into the river, and promote Reuse and Recycle of wastewater after proper treatment (tertiary-level treatment); (B)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; and (C)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, and also for maintaining soil fertility, checking the groundwater degradation, reducing water requirement of crops, producing health-friendly food, etc.[
[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, our Save Ganga Movement has been demanding since long time that we must adopt throughout our country the policy of Zero discharge into the rivers which is also now recommended by the consortium of 7 IITs which is preparing National Ganga River Basin Managent Plan(NGRBMP).]
(3)The bactericidal, health promoting, non-putrefying and self-purifying properties of the water of Ganga should be restored and conserved. Scientists claim that Ganga has the unique quality of self-purification capacity due to the presence of high levels of bactericidal copper and chromium and perhaps of uranium, thorium in the Himalayan sediments and different types of beneficent bacteria coli phages in the sediments of the river which kill the harmful bacteria coli forms.
(4) Treatment of the sewage through “Pond System and Plant Based Management of Sewage and Waste Treatment” and using the nutrient reach treated waste water for organic forming, which is the 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 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 should be undertaken with the help of NBRI, Lucknow, NEERI, Nagpur, along with other prominent research centers of environmental science/ botany/ engineering from our universities/ colleges and various 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 waste water for fish culture and agriculture: it provides about 13000 tons of fish per year from it’s about 300 wastewater fed ponds, 150 tons of fresh vegetables per day from the small scale horticulture plots irrigated with the treated wastewater, water for irrigating paddy cultivation and livelihood for about 50 thousand common people and also serves as a natural sponge absorbing excess rainfall.
(5)The highly earthquake-prone, eco-fragile and ecologically, aesthetically and religiously invaluable Uttarakhand region of the Ganga Basin must be declared “Ecologically Fragile and a Sanctuary for Himalayan Flora and Fauna” and its rivers “wild rivers” and all steps must be taken to preserve its rivers and vegetation in pristine condition. It would be a major step towards 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. The impending catastrophe of fast receding of Himalayan glaciers has to be understood and tackled at a regional and global level. At the regional level, it must involve all Himalayan nations. India should take a major global initiative in this direction to tackle this regional and global crisis.
(6) 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 Ganga bed and the Yamuna bed throughout the stretch of the rivers throughout the year not only to protect and preserve their ecology but also to meet the basic water needs of the cities, towns and villages situated on their banks and restore their self-purifying capacity. At present in dry season the three large barrages at Haridwar, Bijnor and Narora divert 100% of the river’s water into its canals and the Ganga is totally bereft of Gangajal after the Narora barrage. It is highly deplorable that our national capital Delhi is the greatest polluter of the River Yamuna, the largest tributary of our National River Ganga. In dry season no water is allowed to flow in the Yamuna River downstream to Hathnikund barrage in Haryana and what reaches the holy cities of Mathura and Vrindavan is mainly the treated or untreated domestic and industrial waste water contributed by various drains joining the Yamuna at Delhi.
Since the Ganga is our national river and crores of people consider her to be Devine Mother, at least the main stream of the Ganga must be maintained close to its pristine and natural state.
(7)The Consortium of IITs, which is preparing the National Ganga River Basin Management Plan(NGRBMP) should make a holistic comprehensive scientific study of (a)the problem of construction of extremely eco-hostile dams for hydropower in the highly earth quake prone eco-fragile Himalaya region of the Ganga Basin,(b) the problem of construction of extremely eco-hostile barrages for Navigation in the River Ganga and (c) the problem of extremely eco-hostile interlinking of the rivers within the Ganga basin and between the rivers of the Ganga basin and the Peninsular rivers: it has not made any study of these issues so far. Since such scientific study of the issues is necessary for preparing a holistic comprehensive GRBMP, the Government should provide all the necessary help to the consortium of 7 IITs to make such studies of the issues freely with dignity as soon as possible. Decision on these controversial issues must be postponed till a national consensus on these issues is available on the basis of holistic scientific knowledge about the short-term as well as long-term harmful as well as beneficial consequences of such undertakings. We must look beyond short term economic benefits and have a holistic scientific study about the long term environmental cost of the projects whose victims would be mainly, in addition to the adversely effected local people, our future generations and our dumb and deaf fellow creatures. What we need to ensure our lasting water security is decentralized basin restoration, recharging and management approaches that consider a host of small and medium ecologically sustainable measures involving participation of local people.
(8)No encroachment should be allowed on either side of the banks of Ganga atleast within 200-300 meters. Construction of permanent structures for residential, commercial or industrial purposes in the active flood plains of any river must be prohibited.
(9) We must have a law protecting River rights, and River Guards to prevent crimes against rivers and River Courts to try crimes against rivers.
(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 adds to the river in the state. The NRCD must have a monitoring mechanism to regularly monitor the water quality of the rivers at the entry and exit points of each state.
Similarly 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.
(11)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.
The Expert Members of NGRBA must be given due role and importance in this organization both in decision-making and in implementation. NGRBA must have transparency and accountability in every sphere of its activities.
(12) There is no scarcity of money, knowledge and skills with us to save our rivers including the Ganga. There is lack of will due to our moral bankruptcy. 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 ethical values, the value and means of an ethical life would be of little significance. We must study critically the views of great religions and of great teachers and thinkers of mankind about various fundamental issues of ethics concerning ethical values and the value and means of ethically good life, which would be a major step in the direction to overcome our present deep rooted moral and spiritual crisis.
It is our deep conviction that acceptance and implementation of the above “Charter of Save Ganga &Save Himalayas Recommendations” is necessary to rejuvenate and preserve our national River the Ganga and her tributaries. They are essentially based on: a) ‘The Charter of 7 Save Ganga & Save Himalayas Recommendations’ made at the Gandhi Jayanti Save Ganga & Save Himalayas Function held at Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai on 2nd October 2013; b) ‘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 and 12th March, 2012; c)‘Save the Rivers of Maharashtra Resolution’ passed in the seminars held on the occasion of Punyatithi of Mahatma Gandhi at Gandhi National Memorial, Agakhan Palace, Pune on 30th January 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014; d)‘The Charter of Ten Demands to save the Ganga and the Himalayas’ accepted by the former Hon’ble Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on 12thMarch 2009. (These are available in our website, www. savegangamovement.org.)
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, including the problem of Global Warming and Climate Change. Industrialization and urbanization must be in the service of rural India , and development must be non-violent with loving care of our fellow lower form of creatures and life and health sustaining natural systems. We must not allow our population to grow beyond the limit which would cause great harm to our future generations or to our fellow lower form of creatures, and if it has gone beyond the limit we must try to bring it down in some ethical way to the desirable level. We must take time-bound decisive steps to solve the problem of forced migration of rural unemployed to cities by converting rural India into ideal places for leading enlightened ethical life of simple living and high thinking with dignified exhilarating and health-giving body labour in an atmosphere of natural purity and beauty. We must root out corruption, which is proving to be the biggest hurdle in the way of implementing our various governmental programmes of public services, with the help of good governance and character building ethics education. Ultimately, we must create a new paradigm of development for India based on the Gandhian principles of Truth and non-violence. (For a discussion on this issue, please see the note entitled “Gandhian Solution of Global Ecological Crisis” in our website, www. savegangamovement.org.)
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 constitutes the core of Truth, i.e. of the true ultimate goal of life, 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 peaceful and blissful and that a liberated life is eternally the best form of life. 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 and Swami Vivekananda see clearly that all great religions also explicitly or implicitly accept the same.
All great religions, explicitly or implicitly, accept the natural eco-systems which sustain life and provide various essentials of life freely to masses to be sacred and invaluable. Neither the great seers of our Indian civilization nor the seers of various great religions would approve the present fundamentally unspiritual, extremely eco-hostile and out-and-out consumerist global market culture of development of unlimited desires which has caused disappearance of tens of thousands of plant and animal species and continues to cause greater and greater violence to our life and health-sustaining natural systems, which has devastating implications in the long run for our future generations as well as for the entire life world. According to the 2014 Living Planet Report of WWF, our planet earth lost 52 percent of its wildlife in past 40 years between 1970 and 2010(The Times of India, Mumbai, October 1, 2014). They would agree with the Gandhian view that the modern Civilization’s 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 and health-sustaining natural systems in search of their satisfaction is satanic and suicidal. 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 clean water, food, air and health security to our masses. 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. We must protect and take loving care of the delicate and holistic balance that exists in the ecosystems of nature which are invaluable from the view point of utility, aesthetics as well as religion, and try to restore wherever possible our degraded eco-systems Surely the message of enlightened selfless desireless ethical action of universal love of the Indian Civilization, which the Ganga has given to the world, has the potentiality to save the world from the impending catastrophic global ecological crisis along with its present deep rooted all pervasive moral and spiritual crisis. Let India, the land of many great religions, 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 and the central place of ethics in religious life, where science and technology could be used for development only within the limits of ethics, and 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.
The Smt Rama Rauta,
Founder & Convener, Save Ganga Movement
President, National Women’s Organization, Pune
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