Indian guru’s drive to save rivers is timely but questionable
Indian guru’s drive to save rivers is timely but questionable.
The Mercedes G63 SUV, painted bright green and blue, is a week into a month-long drive across the length of India.
Inside sits Jaggi Vasudev, turbaned and bearded, a spiritual guru to millions who is trying to rally Indians around the cause of saving the country’s rivers.
Several of them issued statements of support when he announced his plan to drive 7,000 kilometres, from the southernmost tip of India through 16 states to the Himalayas in the north, to raise awareness for his campaign.
India’s major rivers are rapidly drying up or turning toxic with pollution, Mr Vasudev said in his campaign literature.
He hopes to cite this support when he presents the Indian government with his suggested policy solution: to plant a kilometre-wide belt of trees on either side of every major Indian river.
“Forest trees can be planted on government land and fruit trees on farm land,” the Isha Foundation’s website proposes.
This will also reduce floods, drought and soil loss, and increase farmers’ incomes.” On Saturday, as Mr Vasudev’s caravan passed through Bengaluru, capital of the south Indian state of Karnataka, it was announced that his foundation and the state government had signed an agreement to plant 250 million trees along riverbanks.
Regulations already exist to control pollution in rivers; what is really needed is their thorough implementation, said Rakesh Jaiswal, an environmentalist in the city of Kanpur who has been campaigning for decades against pollution in the Ganges.
Last year, however, the government under prime minister Narendra Modi — who is known to be close to Gautam Adani, the group’s chairman — waived the penalty.