Climate Change / Sustainable Development

Save rivers before it is too late, urges Sadhguru in New York

With a dire warning about the looming future of a waterless world, Indian spiritual leader Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev made a plea for mobilising humanity to save the rivers of India and the world before it is too late, writes Arul Louis

Mar 22, 2018
By Arul Louis
 
With a dire warning about the looming future of a waterless world, Indian spiritual leader Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev made a plea for mobilising humanity to save the rivers of India and the world before it is too late. Rivers in India have been depleted by 60 percent by his estimate in recent years and around the world by 35 percent, he said Wednesday at a special event in New York on “Water, Sanitation and Women's Empowerment.”
 
Efforts to save India's water supply have to focus on the rivers and the agriculture that depends on them, he said.Along with increasing trees and vegetation to save rivers, he called for reimagining the irrigation systems by setting up organisations that brings together farmers so they can jointly manage them more efficiently with the corporate sector.
 
The Rally for Rivers, a national movement he has launched across India with the backing of his Isha Foundation, advocates planting trees for a width of 1 kilometre on either side of the rivers because they can help conserve water in the rivers, while increasing rainfall, he said.
 
Coincidentally, Wednesday was the International Day of Forests and to commemorate the occasion, the UN Security Council presided by the Netherlands held a symbolic Tree Planting Ceremony with Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
 
“Trees and forests play an essential role in mitigating the impact of climate change,” Guterres said during the event held indoors because of a raging snowstorm in the city.
 
Echoing Sadhguru, he said, “They also help to filter and regulate water, preventing flooding and protecting watersheds.”
 
Sadhguru said that saving the rivers and conserving waters should involve all of humanity and everyone should be made to realise their stakes in it – as his Rally for Rivers was doing – because otherwise it will be seen as nothing more than a protest by a few “ecologists.” 
 
He said that women are central to efforts to save the rivers as they are the natural conservationists.
 
Lack of adequate water supply and systems to distributions hit women the hardest, he said.
 
About 800 million women around the world spend six hours a day fetching water, he said, adding jokingly that men, meanwhile, spent that time drinking arrack, which would soon disappear if water became unavailable.
 
Water availability is a factor for the functioning of toilets that women need, which is seen as a national priority, he said.
 
If agriculture continues to wither because of water shortage, impoverished farmers would crowd into cities on an unprecedented scale and the resulting water shortages would lead to civil strife, he warned.
 
With agriculture consuming 80 percent of India's water, he said, conservation and efficient use of water were important for that sector, he said.
 
He suggested that Farmer's Produce Organisation (FPO) could bring farmers together to jointly set up irrigation systems. He noted that one of the main reasons for the suicide of farmers is their inability to pay back loans that they take to bore wells, even as the water tables drop drastically.
 
A cooperative effort could lessen the monetary burden and also create efficiencies, he said.
 
Corporations could set up and manage the irrigation systems for the farmers, who would pay rent for them, he added.
 
He welcomed the UN launching the “International Decade for Action: Water for Sustainable Development 2018-2028” on Thursday.
 
Sadhguru said that if the world acted now, the rivers could be brought back by 25 percent in 15 to 25 years. But if it waited another 10 years to act, it would be too late as it would take 150 years recover 25 percent of the water, he added.
 
(Arul Louis can be reached at arullouis@spsindia.in)

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