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Guest Article

Taming the forces of Nature

Mrs. Shalini Sreenivas
Editor, Ganges Watch

Rivers are not just water bodies.  They are a dynamic force harmonising unseen energies and sustaining life on our planet in a million more ways than science can comprehend much lesser our politicians.

Etani  dasha papani hara tvam mama jahnavi
Dasha papa hara  tasmad dashahara smrita

Our rivers formed when planet earth has formed and nature created rivers from time to time in its own inimitable way to sustain life on this planet. Disturbing these rivers or trying to tame them is nothing but making an effort to cease life on the planet.
As I write this article as my humble contribution towards Sevamed and I express my gratitude to Dr. Shri Harinathji. I am filled with trepidation as I am not sure how these words can make an impact and steer some rational thinking. Even if it does, how can we as humanity and sensitive citizens of this world and particularly India save our rivers and in turn precious life? "Is there somebody listening"? "Is there anybody who cares"?
We have sadly given away the right to govern our lives, our environment, our nature, our ecosystem, our rivers and our existence to a group of uninformed and self interested politicians and we are helplessly watching our present and future heading towards a disaster.
Mahatma Gandhi about whom one can never finish describing who looked into all the aspects of society and humanity and tried to find workable solutions was always fighting for THIS situation that we are facing today.
The situation being ...losing our right to live. It's not just we human beings but all the living and non living beings in this universe have a right to live and exist and no man whoever mighty he might be, can take away our fundamental right to live.
Nature created us along with all other living beings and nature is sustaining us. Who has given the right to our politicians to tamper with nature without understanding what the science of nature and rejuvenation is all about.
There is something called eternal time frame and something called immediate time frame. Nature follows the eternal time frame and it is measured in eons while we mortals look at much shorter spans of time. Till the Second World War and the industrialisation we looked at a minimum of 300 year time span. All our monuments and our development looked at least 300 years of sustenance. Today that same time span has come down to a 365 days working plan. It's a use and throw society which is fast taking over our natural resources.
Environmentalists and nature lovers have been screaming from the roof tops and trying to make governments understand but there has been no use. India in particular is heading towards a major life crisis and there is nobody to listen.
I want to focus this article on the perils of River Ganga which is the consciousness of we Indians and the sentiment for it is deeper than words can explain. Incidentally our Prime Minister evoked the sentiment of Ganga to climb to PM hood. Ganga today is not anymore an environmental, spiritual, or cultural issue nor an economic issue but a dirty political issue.
People have lost many battles trying to voice their opinion and activists have even given their lives fighting for an Aviral Nirmal Ganga.
It has become almost impossible unless Mother Ganga who in an invincible force decides to take her own action (which will mean that Haridwar to Patna along with Delhi will be under 16 meters of water) to drive home any sense to our politicians. 
As a small deviation I want to write a small real story about an anthropological study and findings of a group of scientists.
A group of anthropologists were observing an island in the Pacific Ocean which had only monkeys as its inhabitants. These monkeys lived on some wild potatoes rather tubers and had no access to any other land. As the scientists were studying them, one monkey as it was playing dropped the tuber into the ocean and quickly picked it up to eat. It realised that the tuber tasted better after washing it with water. Soon all the monkeys learnt this trick and within no time the scientists observed that the entire monkey population on the island has transformed its habit.
Interestingly there was another island separated by 30 miles in the Pacific Ocean which was also a monkey island and being studied by the scientists, who observed that within five days this tuber washing knowledge had travelled to that island too. There was no way a monkey could have physically travelled to disseminate its new found knowledge. This study infers that "thought" is a powerful medium and "collective thought" is a more powerful medium. If the consciousness of the Indian people can be steered towards a collective positive thought mass, then the political thinking can be changed.  The idea and hope behind writing this article is that as more and more people become aware of the issue of Ganga in particular and our environment as a whole, then there is hope to bring in a positive change.
Going back to the Ganga story, Ganga is about 2,500 km river which originates at Gomukh which is the mouth of the Himalayan glacier but actually the glacier is at Manasarovar and Mount Kailash. Legend as all Indians know that Ganga answered the prayers of Sage Bhagiratha and descended on earth leaving her heavenly abode to alleviate the suffering of humanity. Her path was decided by the sage which started in the locks of Shiva as her first landing step and cascading and flowing with great force and majesty towards her earthly final destination which is the Bay of Bengal.  Her identity which formed on the head of Shiva is retained until she enters the ocean where she merges with the eternal. As our scripture describes this process as Jivatma merging with the Paramatma  and this is an eternal cycle. The fresh waters of Ganga reach the ocean and the Sun god makes them into vapour and brings in rain and the cycle goes on and on and in the process nurturing millions of people and living beings. Rather nurturing the micro and macrocosm.
The common Indian when is reminded about the Ganga only thinks about the cleaning of the Ganga. He is not informed about the lack of water in the Ganga.  Little does he know about the real issue of the Ganga is not just about cleaning but about free flow of the river. The river is indiscriminately diverted and locked up in hundreds of small and big dams. The Ganga after Haridwar is virtually nonexistent for 400 Kms till Kanpur. The entire stretch of the river has become bare with only a small trickle. The forests have disappeared, the fishermen have lost livelihoods, the farmers have lost their lands to drought. A few million people have been affected because the Delhi elite need Ganga water. Delhi has been historically fed by the Yamuna waters. Our politicians have destroyed the Yamuna and now it is the turn of the Ganga. They are dictated by the DPR scamsters who decide all the so called governmental initiatives. Nobody does a need based assessment of these projects because of the heavy kickbacks involved. The government and the prime minister come out of this mega plan for development and thousands of crores are eaten up. The projects even if they are completed cause more unemployment, starvation and poverty than a few elite jobs. Millions of hectares of land are deprived of ground water resources buy diverting rivers to benefit a few thousands whom the politicians think are deserving. Who is giving them this right? The most recent is the River Ken and Betwa river linking project which is about 20000 crores worth and will spell complete disaster.  A handful of politicians are behind this conspiracy of course minus one person now, our dear Late environment minister.
There is a simple solution to this issue. All these great minds who advocate linking rivers should be made to lie down on a hospital bed and blood transfusion of a mismatched blood group should be infused. Only then will people understand what happens if rivers are linked. By the way this is the argument put up by the NGT to stop the river linking projects.
Every river has its own character and its own characteristics. The life forms in every river are unique to its waters. Linking them will cause an ecological disaster.
Going back to our Ganga story, Ganga is joined by other small rivers and she looks magnificent at Allahabad and again loses herself on her journey to Varanasi due to encroachments and diversions. Varanasi too gets fed by river Varuna during monsoon and by the gutter water of Varanasi city. Incidentally Varanasi  is the prime ministers constituency. Then Ganga filled with the burden of human sins flows towards Ballia and Patna regaining her lost glory because she is fed by some of the rivers from Nepal.  Our politicians can only see this last stretch of waters and have been planning a water way on the Ganga from Haldia to Allahabad. One can only look up towards the heavens with a deep sadness and pray that some sense prevails on our politicians.
The major problem in our country is a lack of environmental policy which can set guidelines for politicians before they take these disastrous decisions. Seventy years after independence we have systematically destroyed all our rivers and water bodies. We as citizens have lost our voice to speak and that comes from lack of interest in our surroundings. We have become insensitive towards a larger cause and a larger good. We have become self centred and are only concerned about our immediate needs.
It is time that we wake up and the least we can do is to learn more about our environment, our rivers, our forests and about the purity of the food that we are eating. Unless we as a collective consciousness wakes up to the need of the hour, our politicians will continue to take advantage of our ignorance.
Next time you hear about Namami Gange please follow what the government is doing and not get fooled by lofty speeches. We are an educated nation and we need to learn to question and enquire and not follow like a herd of sheep. Only then will India become a Sone ki Chidiya which it was till a mere 100 years ago.

Jai Gange

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