Save Ganga Movement
A GANDHIAN NON-VIOLENT MOVEMENT FOR A NON-VIOLENT CULTURE OF DEVELOPMENT
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; the Ganga, symbolizes all rivers and water bodies; and the Giriraj Himalaya, symbolizes all mountains, forests and wildlife.
What we must do to save the Ganga
The utility, aesthetic and religious value of the natural ecology of the Ganga & of the Himalaya is invaluable. The Ganga is the life-line of crores of our people: a naturally flowing fresh and clean Ganga (Aviral & Nirmal Ganga) freely and permanently meets various water requirements of people on its banks, recharges the ground water all along its flow, improves the fertility of a lot of farmland through its silt, provides the habitat for hundreds of diverse life forms, etc. The dense natural forests of the Himalayas prevents floods, constitute the natural source/ store-house of invaluable pure air, water soil and natural manure, provide the habitat for the invaluable Himalayan diverse life forms, provide seasonal fruits, nuts, edible oil seeds, honey through its flowering trees, medicines through its medicinal plants, and fuel, timber, fiber for local use, and freely contribute to the fertility of the agro-ecosystems of the entire Gangetic planes deposing fresh nutrient rich silt through freely flowing rivers. The GANGAJAL (water of the Ganga) is traditionally claimed to have bactericidal, health promoting, non-putrefying and self-purifying properties. The aesthetic and religious value of the natural ecology of the Ganga and of the Himalaya is also invaluable. All great religions, explicitly or implicitly, accept the natural eco-systems which sustain healthy life and provide various essentials of life freely to masses to be sacred and invaluable. We must not allow our development activities to deprive the masses the various invaluable services they have been getting freely since ages from the Ganga and her tributaries and their source the Himalayas: it would be highly unethical to allow our Ganga Rejuvenation Project, essentially to satisfy our greed for wealth and lust for luxuries, in the name of development for the common people, to become a multi billion dollor Ganga-Business enterprise at the cost of depriving the masses the various invaluable services they have been getting since ages from the Ganga and her tributaries and their source the Himalayas. It would be highly unethical and satanic to allow our development activities, essentially to satisfy our greed for wealth and lust for luxuries, in the name of development for the common people, to deprive the masses the various invaluable services they have been getting freely since ages from our life-giving and life-& health-sustaining aesthetically and religiously invaluable natural eco-systems. We must not allow our greed for wealth and lust for luxuries to deprive the masses the invaluable essentials of life such as pure air, water, soil, sun light, natural manure, medicinal plants, etc. which they have been getting freely from nature since ages.
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 crores of our people and crores of our people consider her to be their divine mother and that the polluted water directly or indirectly cause health hazards like cancer, respiratory diseases, renal failure and much other water-borne or water-related diseases. A recent study conducted by the National Cancer Registry program has found that those living along the banks of the river Ganga are more prone to cancer than others in the country: the river is laden with heavy metals and lethal chemicals that cause cancer. Cases of Gall bladder cancer along the course of the river are the second highest in the world while incidences of prostate cancer are the highest in the country. (See editorial, Times of India, Oct. 18, 2012.) The pain and suffering it must be causing to the aquatic life and to the animals and birds who drink the polluted water go unaccounted. Unfortunately, we are continuing to commit the same kind of mistakes that are responsible for the failure of our Ganga Action Plan Phase-1 and Phase -2 which poses a serious threat of wastage and misuse of funds. Unfortunately also many hydro-electric projects on various rivers of the highly earthquake-prone, eco-fragile and ecologically, aesthetically, religiously invaluable Uttarkhand region of the Ganga Basin are being proposed or promoted although we know that it is likely to cause massive and irreparable damage to its age-old invaluable ecosystems causing the loss of various benefits our nation gets from its natural ecosystems including the age-old various beneficial qualities of the GANGAJAL, and it is likely to have devastating effects if there is some major earthquake or some other major natural disaster like that of June 2013. It is important to note that according to the report of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) published on 20th March 2007, apart from the Ganga, the Indus, Nile, and Yangtze are among the 10 most endangered rivers of the world. Surely saving our national river Ganga, which constitutes the lifeline of nearly 40 % of our country’s population, would be a major step in the direction to save all our other great rivers which are also in the process of slow death: it will set an example for saving our all other great rivers. We must not allow NGRBA to fail like our National Ganga Action Plan (GAP) created in 1985 to save the Ganga. NGRBA must have transparency and accountability in every sphere of its activities, which at present it does not have. 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. Posterity will condemn and curse us if we do not take the necessary time-bound steps to save our invaluable national river mother Ganga and her tributaries and their source the Himalayas.
It is our deep conviction that acceptance and implementation of the following “Charter of Save Ganga &Save Himalayas Recommendations” is necessary to rejuvenate and preserve our national River the Ganga and her tributaries.
1) The National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) must take full responsibility for the protection of our national river. Since the Ganga flows through many states, it would be best 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.
a) As the planning commission, there should be a Deputy-chairman for NGRBA, whose sole and whole responsibility would be towards NGRBA.
b) The Expert Members of NGRBA must be given an important role to play both in the context of decision making as well as in the context of implementation. At present they are almost totally neglected at both the contexts.
c) Analogous to the ‘Prevention of Insults to National Honor Act’ for the national flag and anthem, there should be an Act for the national river Ganga. The Ganga should be constitutionally declared as the National River with provisions that ensure due respect to her, considering her National River status (a) Zero Discharge of treated or untreated sewage-water, industrial effluents, etc., into the river, (b) Adequate environment flow with sediments in the river, and (c) Protection of the river’s active flood Plains.. 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.
d) Taking into account the important role rivers play to meet various water requirements of the masses and the danger to their life they are facing at present from various eco-hostile forces of development, we must have a law protecting River rights, ensuring throughout the country (a) Policy of Zero Discharge into the Rivers, (b) Policy of Maintenance of Adequate Environmental Flow in the Rivers and (c) Policy of Protection of the Active Flood Plains of the Rivers, and River Guards to prevent crimes against rivers and River Courts to try crimes against rivers.
2) The present policy of allowing treated sewage into our rivers is anti Aam Janata. 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, we must adopt throughout the country the following policy of zero discharge: (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): sewers must be separated from rivers, sewage must be converted into natural manure and treated-sewage water must be used only for non-drinking, non-cooking purposes such as irrigation, industrial, non-potable domestic and commercial uses, groundwater recharge, etc.; (B)Industrial effluents, hospital wastes, or any other harmful materials, 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 only recycled water; and (C)Organic / natural 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. [These recommendations of our Save Ganga Movement are also now have been made by the consortium of 7 IITs which has prepared the National Ganga River Basin Management Plan(NGRBMP).
The health promoting bactericidal, non-putrefying and self-purifying properties of the water of Ganga must be restored and conserved. Scientists claim that Ganga has the unique quality of self-purification capacity due to its 25 times more self-purifying capacity than that of other rivers and 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/ virus coli phages in the sediments of the river which kill the harmful bacteria coli forms. 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.
Treatment of the sewage through “Pond System and Plant Based Management of Sewage and Waste Treatment” and using the nutrient rich treated waste water for organic forming, which is the cheapest and durable and need least management and electricity, should be preferred wherever possible. 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: 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. Some 35000 tons of municipal waste and 680 million liters of raw sewage enter the wetland system every day. Still, only 30% of the total wastewater is used for aquaculture or irrigation, while the remaining70% flows directly in to the Bay of Bengal, which pollutes the estuarine region, and subsequently reduces aquatic biodiversity and causes large scale deaths of fish seeds. This problem could be mitigated by taking necessary steps for 100 % use of the total wastewater for aquaculture and irrigation. The East Kolkata Wetlands system could be developed as an ideal example of low-cost urban waste management & recycling for fish culture and organic farming and sanitation technology, especially for developing countries.
A massive time-bound fruit/ medicinal plant/tree plantation programme on the banks of the river Ganga from Gangotri to Ganga Sagar, ensuring substantial profit to the farmers, 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 and other prominent research centers of botany and like-minded NGOs and local people. It would set an example for undertaking similar projects for all our other great rivers in the country which are also in the process of slow death. Herbal strip along the river should be promoted under the scheme of Rural Eco-friendly River Front Development of the Ganga. Under the scheme of Eco-friendly River Front Development of the Ganga, the rural youth should be used for the protection and beautification of the river front in the rural side of our national river with the help of the Panchayatas and rural empowerment schemes like MGNREGS. Such a project can be made a major source of creating Save Ganga Awareness among our rural youth.
Since cow dung is an excellent form of organic manure, cow urine an excellent form of organic pest repellent and bullocks play an important role in the traditional farming, promotion of organic farming and promotion of cow-protection & cow-welfare missions could be perfectly complementary to each other.
Eco-hostile river-front development activities in the name of beautification of river-fronts must not be allowed. Construction of permanent structures for residential, commercial or industrial purposes and eco-hostile mining of sands and gravels in the active flood plains of a river must be prohibited throughout the country. A flood plain helps in flood mitigation, helps a river to recharge aquifers and groundwater sources and to improve the fertility of farmland through the river’s silt, and provides suitable habitats for specialized plants and animals, etc.
Our National laboratories of CSIR- NEERI, Nagapur, NBRI, Lucknow, ITRC, Lucknow, CLRI, Chennai, etc. – along with our other prominent research centers of environmental science/ engineering of the IITs, BHU, etc. should network and collaborate with each other to play the central role in deciding the means to make our National River and its tributaries free from pollution and stop their degradation with the help of a culture of GPPP (Government, Private, Public Participation.) Our scientists have the knowledge and skill to rejuvenate our national river within 4 or 5 years if they get the full support and cooperation of the government. Our scientists, not the bureaucrats, should play the central role in deciding the technology to be used to clean the rivers.
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 has added 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. 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.
3) The highly earth quake prone, eco-fragile, ecologically invaluable Uttarkhand region of the Ganga Basin must be declared “Ecological Fragile ” and its rivers “wild river” and all steps must be taken to protect them and the natural eco-systems they support. 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. Since Uttarkhand is the location of many important pilgrimage places, we must not allow any eco- hostile tourism in the Name of Tirtha Yatra: we must know that Tirtha Yatra is a Form of Tapah( Purificatory action/ Austerity). The proposed 900km 12000-crore All-Weather Char Dham Yatra Highway Development Project is very likely to affect the Himalayan region of the Ganga Basin very badly if absolute care is not taken to make it absolutely eco-friendly and spirituality-friendly. There must be an upper limit on the number of the tourists/ pilgrims taking into account the eco-friendly carrying-capacity of the Himalayan region.
The utility value, ecological value and aesthetic value of the age old pristine wild mountains, forests, rivers and wildlife of the Himalayan region of the Ganga are invaluable which cannot be created by us once we destroy them in the name of development. The ill conceived various dam projects for hydroelectricity on the Alakananda and Mandakini which would cause massive and permanent harm to their invaluable ecology must not be allowed. The run-of-the river hydroelectricity projects stop the flow of the river with a barrage and divert the entire river through dark cemented tunnels leading to a dried pathway of the river along its river bed. Large scale blasting, tunneling, destruction of underground natural streams, submergence of forests causing loss of biodiversity and loss of endangered and threatened species, etc., can have devastating effects in the young and highly eco-fragile regions of the Himalayas. Since we have only a partial scientific understanding of the very complex Himalayan ecology, we must not experiment with development activities there until a complete scientific understanding of the natural ecology of the Ganga Basin in the Himalayan region is available. Decision on the controversial issue of construction of eco-hostile dams for hydropower in this region must be postponed till there is a national agreement on this issue on the basis of a holistic scientific knowledge about what would be the loss to the nation because of the loss of various benefits our nation gets from its natural eco systems as well as about the devastating implications of natural calamities if hydropower plants are constructed in this highly earth quake prone eco-fragile Himalaya region of the Ganga Basin. Efforts must also be made as soon as possible to rectify our past mistakes as far as possible.
The Consortium of IITs, which has prepared the National Ganga River Basin Management Plan(NGRBMP) must 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.
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. We must have the policy of minimum interference with its natural flows in place of the present policy of having its minimum eco-flow, which means maximum abstraction of its water. 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. Methods of irrigation and agricultural practices need to be changed keeping in view of the E-flow requirements of our national river and sustainability of ground water in the Ganga Basin. The same is true in the case of our other great rivers. Dependence on rivers for irrigation could be substantially reduced by making our villages self-dependent as far as possible for their water needs through storing rainwater in traditional ways in tanks and ponds, etc and rejuvenating / preserving /creating wetlands, grasslands, forests wherever possible which would function as natural water tanks. In India, forest cover is around 24 percent, and we need to increase this to 33 percent to absorb 2.5 to 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide by 2030 as part of our national action plan to counter climate change.
Like National Ganga River Basin Authority ( NGRBA), we must also have a planning, financing, monitoring and coordinating high powered National Godavari, Krishna and Cauvery Rivers Basin Authority( NGKCRBA) headed by our Prime Minister to insure effective abatement of pollution and conservation of the rivers through adopting a river basin approach for comprehensive holistic planning and management. Like the NGRBMP prepared by the Consortium of 7 IITs, making of a comprehensive Godavari, Krishna and Cauvery Basin Management plan (NGKCMP) based on a thorough holistic scientific study of various aspects of the Godavari, Krishna and Cauvery basin must be undertaken as soon as possible with the help of a consortium of IITs, IISc, Bengaluru, Central University of Hyderabad and other prominent universities of western and southern India and National Laboratories of CSIR, etc. Such a basin management plan is absolutely necessary to make the best use of the water resources of the basin with justice and with loving care of the invaluable countless kinds of flora and fauna of the life and health-sustaining aesthetically and religiously invaluable natural eco systems of the basin.
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. Like the Western Ghats Ecology Preservation and Restoration Plan made by the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP), we must have a National Himalayan Ecology Preservation and Restoration Plan based on a holistic scientific study of the ecology of the 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.
The central government must provide all the help needed to make Uttarakhand an absolutely eco-friendly ideal Himalayan state. Time-bound steps for non-commercial afforestation of the Uttarakhand should be undertaken and these activities should be carried by the local people, using samplings of local plants. Eco-friendly pilgrimage, tourism, cottage industry, organic agriculture and horticulture, growing medicinal and aromatic plants and services sectors such as software parks, education and health institutes etc. should be promoted to generate revenue as well as jobs.
4) There is no scarcity of wealth, knowledge and skill to save and rejuvenate our villages along with our rivers, water bodies, mountains, forests and wildlife which are in the process of slow death. There is lack of will due to our moral and spiritual bankruptcy/ deficiency which is at the root of our various deep rooted social evils including the problem of corruption. Environmental ethics must be taught as a part of a syllabus on Character-building ethics education which must be taught as a compulsory subject, both at the school as well as at the college level. Although it is one of our “Charter of Ten demands’ which our former Hon’ble Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh accepted on 12th March 2009 at the meeting at his residence, unfortunately no steps have been taken in this direction. Teaching environmental science without teaching environmental ethics and also teaching environmental ethics, medical ethics, business ethics etc., without discussing various fundamental questions of ethics concerning ethical values and the nature( form and content), value and means of ethically good life and good society 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, which would be a major step in the direction to overcome our present deep rooted moral and spiritual crisis: it would certainly be a major step in the direction to cure our national social disease of corruption.
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. 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.` An adequate flow of natural fresh water with sediments 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 its banks and restore their self-purifying capacity and the bactericidal, non-putrefying and health promoting qualities of Gangajal. 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. Natural justice demands that we must not deprive people use of water of a river for drinking and other domestic purposes for using it for agricultural or industrial purpose, and deprive its use for agricultural purpose for using it for industrial purpose.
(The above recommendations are essentially based on the various Save Ganga & Save Himalayas Recommendations / Demands / Resolutions of our Save Ganga Movement, which are the result of the churning discussions of many Save Ganga and Save Himalayas Seminars/ Meetings / Workshops held in different parts of our country in the course of the Movement. (These are available in our website, www. savegangamovement.org.)
We must rejuvenate mother Ganga by (A) making her Aviral and taking time bound decisive steps to make her and her tributaries completely free from (1) industrial effluents, hospital wastes, etc., (2) sewage of the cities and towns (3) hazardous chemicals from agricultural run-off within five years as our short term goal, (B) and making serious effort to solve the problems of industrialization, urbanization, population growth and corruption which are direct or indirect causes of our problem of environmental degradation in general and slow death of our rivers in particular by trying to realize through Gandhian non-violent means the Gandhian conceptions village Swaraj , Swadeshi , Sarvodaya, dignified exhilarating& health-friendly body labor, cottage industry, rural centric/ serving eco-friendly decentralized industrialization and urbanization, character-building ethics education, enlightened righteous life of simple living and high thinking, etc., as soon as possible as our long term goal.
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: at present industrialization and urbanization is essentially devoted to promoting luxurious life, in the name of development for the common people, at the cost of depriving the masses various essential services which they have been getting since ages from our invaluable natural eco-systems. 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 in an atmosphere of natural purity and beauty with loving care of the life-& health-sustaining aesthetically and religiously invaluable natural eco-systems with the help of the Gandhian conceptions of Truth and non-violence, village Swaraj, Swadeshi, dignified exhilarating& health-friendly body-labor, cottage industry, non-explottive rural-friendly and eco-friendly industrialization and urbanization, Antyodaya, Sarvodaya, satyagraha, character-building ethics education, etc. In Harijan on 4th August 1946 Gandhiji wrote: “When our villages are fully developed, there will be no dearth in them of men with a high degree of skill and artistic talent. There will be village poets, village artists, village architects, linguists and research workers. In short there will be nothing in life which will not be had in the villages. Today the villages are dung heaps. Tomorrow they will be like tiny gardens of Eden where dwell highly intelligent folk whom no one can deceive or exploit. The reconstruction of villages along these lines should begin right now…not on a temporary but permanent basis.” 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: our population has quadrupled since 1951. 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. In his Hind Swaraj, making a severe condemnation of the education system of modern western civilization, Gandhiji claims: ““…it (higher education) has its place when we have brought under subjection our senses and put our ethics on a firm foundation. And then, if we feel inclined to receive that education, we may make good use of it. As an ornament it is likely to sit well on us. It now follows that it is not necessary to make this education compulsory. Our ancient school system is enough. Character building has the first place in it and that is primary education. A building erected on that foundation will last. ……Religious that is ethical, education will occupy the first place.” [M.K.Gandhi, Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule (Navajeevan Publishing House, Ahmedabad-14, 2005), pp.77-9.] The apostle of Truth and Non-violence of our age does show us the surest and best way and perhaps the only way in the long run, how to build a New India with a sustainable, equitable, loving and caring Non-violent Culture of Development. He rightly says: “That you cannot serve God and Mammon is an economic truth of the highest value. We have to make our choice. … Let us seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and the irrevocable promise is that everything will be added unto us. These are Real Economics. May you and I treasure them and enforce them in our daily life.” (M. K. Gandhi, The Voice of Truth, p. 328)
Neither the great seers of our Indian civilization nor of the various great religions would approve the present fundamentally materialistic, extremely eco-hostile, inherently unsustainable and out-and-out consumerist global market culture of unlimited desires for wealth and luxuries and cut throat competition for getting more and more wealth for their satisfaction, 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, (in the form of causing pollution of air, water, land, global warming and climate change, depletion of non-renewable natural resources, depletion of ozone layer, etc.) 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).Polluting the essential requirements of life such as air, water, soil, etc., and consuming the limited non-renewable natural resources at the cost of the essential needs of our future generations or of our fellow lower form of creatures for the sake of luxuries is highly unethical. They would agree with the Gandhian view that the modern Civilization’s culture of having unlimited desires for wealth and luxuries and going to the ends of the earth with the help of science and technology causing greater and greater irreparable harm to earth’s life & health-sustaining natural systems in search of their satisfaction is satanic and suicidal. Unfortunately our leaders are failing to see what Mahatma Gandhi could see clearly long time back: “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not for every man’s greed”; “God forbid that India should ever take to industrialism after that manner of the West. The economic imperialism of a single tiny island kingdom (England) is today keeping the world in chains. If an entire nation of 300 millions took to similar economic exploitation, it would strip the world bare like locusts”, (Harijan, 20-12-1928). Mahatma Gandhi rightly says: “The earth, the air, the land and the water are not an inheritance from our fore fathers but on loan from our children. So we have to handover to them at least as it was handed over to us.” Gandhiji was once asked if he expected independent India to attain the same standard of living as Britain. Gandhiji replied, “It took Britain half the resources of the planet to achieve this prosperity. How many planets will a country like India require!” He rightly claims: “We notice that the mind is a restless bird, the more it gets the more it wants, and still remains unsatisfied. The more we indulge our passions the more unbridled they become. Our ancestors, therefore, set a limit to our indulgences. They saw that happiness was largely a mental condition. A man is not necessarily happy because he is rich or unhappy because he is poor. The rich are often seen to be unhappy, the poor to be happy.”(M.K.Gandhi, Hind Swaraj or Indian home Rule, Navajeevan Publishing House, Ahmedabad-14, 1938, p.53) He clearly sees: “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. A certain degree of physical harmony and comfort is necessary, but above a certain level it becomes hindrance instead of help. Therefore the ideal of creating an unlimited number of wants and satisfying them seems to be a delusion and snare.” (T.N Khoshoo, Mahatma Gandhi: An Apostle of applied Human Ecology, Tata Energy Research Institute, New Delhi, 2002, pp.68-69.) “I do not believe that multiplication of wants and machinery contrived to supply them is taking the world a single step nearer to its goal…. I whole-heartedly detest this mad desire to destroy distance and time, to increase animal appetites and go to the ends of the earth in search of their satisfaction. If modern civilization stands for all this, and I have understood it to do so, I call it Satanic.’’ (M.K Gandhi, The Voice of Truth, Navajeevan Publishing House, Ahmedabad-14, 1968, pp.326-327.) The culture of development of modern western civilization treats Nature as an adversary to be subdued and conquered, but the Gandhian approach to technological progress lies in considering Nature as our friend and benefactor. Gandhiji’s thought does provide the form and content of a sustainable, equitable, loving and caring non-violent form of development which essentially involves retelling the basic ethics of our ancient civilization as well as 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 the slow death of the Ganga symbolizing all rivers and water bodies, and the Giriraj Himalayas, symbolizing all mountains forests and wildlife and also the problem of Global Warming and Climate Change. (For a discussion on this issue, please see the note entitled “Gandhian Solution to Global Ecological Crisis” in our website, www. savegangamovement.org.)
We must realize that the ecological crisis of the mother Ganga is the sign/ symptom of the ecological crisis of our mother Planet earth due to the present fundamentally unspiritual and eco-hostile, inherently unsustainable out-and-out consumerist global culture of development of modern civilization, which Gandhiji rightly considered to be false and satanic, and the slow death of the Ganga is the sign/ symptom of the slow death of our great ancient civilization, which is the only living great ancient civilization and the mother of so many great religions, which Gandhij rightly considered to be true and divine( Hind Swaraj, Chapters VI, & XIII). Surely our civilization has the moral and spiritual resources to play the role of Jagat Guru and show the present spiritually dark world the path of Truth, the path of self-purification, self-enlightenment and self-realization, the path of Yoga, which essentially involves pursuit and realization of ethical perfection.
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 in the best possible way and to one’s best 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 selfless desireless ethical life of love (i.e. enlightened selfless ethical life of love with detachment to the fruits of actions) is intrinsically peaceful and 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 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 desireless 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.
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. 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. Rejuvenating and preserving the Ganga and her tributaries and their source the Himalayas and the Godavari, Krishna and Cauvery and their source the Western Ghats, and our other great river mothers and their sources is absolutely necessary to ensure lasting water, food, air and health security to our masses, and saving our national river Ganga would be a major step in the direction to save all our other great rivers which are also in the process of slow death.
Ultimately, we must create a new paradigm of development for India based on Gandhian principles Truth and universal non-violence. The modern western form of development which started with industrial revolution in mid-1700 has already caused massive damage to our planet earth’s ecosphere. We must replace the present fundamentally unspiritual, extremely eco-hostile, out-and-out consumerist and inherently unsustainable self–destructive culture of development of unlimited desires and cut throat life-corroding competition for getting more and more wealth for their satisfaction, which is essentially born of lust for luxuries and greed for wealth, by an enlightened ethical culture of contentment, purity and sustainable loving and caring non-violent development. Surely the Indian Civilization which the Ganga has given to the world does provide profound systematic knowledge about the means to discipline ethically our senses and passions and progress towards ethical perfection, and its message of enlightened selfless ethical action of universal love and compassion with detachment to its fruits has the potentiality to save the world from its present deep rooted all pervasive moral and spiritual crisis along with the impending catastrophic global ecological crisis including the crisis due to global warming which is likely to transform the Ganga into a seasonal river due to disappearance of the Himalaya snow and submerge many of our coastal villages, towns and cities due to rise of the sea level. Surely the Indian civilization, which is the only living great ancient civilization and the mother of so many great religions, has the moral and spiritual resources to provide the awareness necessary to create a mass Satyagraha to save the world from the impending massive ecological crisis along with its present deep rooted all pervasive moral and spiritual crisis, and surely India, the mother of this only great living ancient civilization, is in far better position than any other country to create and lead such a movement. Let India, the land of many great religions, provide the world a culture of non-violence and Truth in the context of our present technological age, where all religions would grow harmoniously with reference to morality and spirituality 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 would be used for development only within the limits of ethics, where development would 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 eco systems. Let us rejuvenate our great ancient civilization through completing the unfinished work of Mahatma Gandhi , the apostle of Truth and non-violence of our age, and save India and through it the world at large from the impending catastrophic global ecological crisis along with the present all pervasive deep rooted moral and spiritual crisis.
Rejuvenating & Preserving mother Ganga and her tributaries and their source the Himalayas and introducing universal compulsory critical ethics education with character-building ethics education as its core and the problem of the ultimate meaning of life as its central problem from the beginning of our education system would certainly be some major steps in the right direction to rejuvenate and preserve our great ancient civilization of Truth and non-violence and establish a Kingdom of Spiritually Enlightened Righteousness(Rama Rajya, Kingdom of God) in the context of our present technological age. Under the spell of the glamour of the modern civilization, which Mahatma Gandhi called a Nine days wonder, let us not become modern Dhrtarastras.
Smt Rama Rauta,
Convener, Save Ganga Movement
Former Member, Expert Advisory Committee, Ganga Rejuvenation, Ministry of WR, RD&GR, Govt. of India
Former Member, Expert Committee, National Ganga River Basin Authority, Govt. of India
President, National Women’s Organization, Pune