The three-day national water convention organized by Jal Jan Jodo Abhiyan and Jal Biradari and supported by Department of Water Resources, Government of Karnataka where more than 15000 Participants of 101 rivers Yatra of India for water literacy from Kanyakumari to Kashmir and Goa to Guwahati have shared their experiences. Hundreds of water activists under the leadership of Magsaysay and Stockholm Water Awards winner Dr. Rajendra Singh, popularly known as the
Waterman of India, had launched nationwide “Water Literacy Yatras” on May 28 this year – from Kanyakumari to Kashmir; and from Goa to Gauhati. They converged here for three-day deliberations to draft the Declaration at the National Convention for Drought Free India.
The Vijayapura Declaration is the third major declaration adopted since February this year by water activists under the guidance of Dr. Rajendra Singh. The other two declarations were the Patna Declaration which was released by Bihar CM Nitish Kumar in Patna in February that called for holding further deliberations on siltation issues to ensure the incessant flow of river Ganga. Subsequently, the Delhi Declaration, released in May, called for formulation of a comprehensive National Silt Management Policy for Himalayan and alluvial rivers, as well as a review of the Farakka barrage on river Ganga. 21 River Basine organization were formed including of Major River Basins Ganga, Yamuna, Krishna, Kaveri, Mahanadi, Godavari, Narmada etc. In those River Parliament, all those Activists discussed and contributed the Vijaypura Declaration.
Day 1: August 16, 2017
Inauguration of the convention by Water Resources Minister, Government of Karnataka, MB Patil by the establishment of Kalash (jal Kalash sthapana) that contained water of 101 rivers of India collected through a nationwide Yatra on water literacy from Kanyakumari to Kashmir and Goa to Guwahati.
Waterman of India Rajendra Singh called the event very significant as it saw the amalgamation of Raj, Samaj and Sant (government, society, and saints). He said these are all people who are concerned about water, soil, forests and other natural resources. About the dignitaries sitting on the stage including: MB Patil, HK Patil, Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Minister, Government of Karnataka, retired Supreme Court judge Justice V. Gopal Gowda, Kath Siddheswar Swamiji of Sholapur, Siddheswar Swamiji of Bijapur, Prof. Vikram Soni, Prof. Rajendra Poddar, Sanjay Singh national convener Jal
Jan Jodo Abhiyan (JJJA), Dr. Mahantesh Biradara, publicity officer of National Water
Convention and others, the Waterman said they have all set benchmarks in the sectors that they are working. He also expressed gratitude towards them for doing a remarkable contribution in water conservation in the country.
He said that through this program, we need to find out the reasons for droughts and floods in the country and to chalk out the ways to address them. He said that there was a lot of enthusiasm and support during the nationwide water literacy yatra and that is reflecting in the convention as well. Singh said that in the next three days everyone who has come here from various quarters of the nation would be given the opportunity to share their knowledge about the issues related to water and ways to address them. He said that based on the information gathered from all, a declaration would be prepared which will guide people to work in their respective regions for water literacy and saving rivers and other water bodies.
Later, MB Patil talked about the irrigation and water conservation activities being carried out in the state and said that the declaration that will be prepared by the end of the threeday function would change the history of water conservation work in the country. The Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Minister of the state, HK Patil said it’s a very meaningful program as every part of the country is facing drought. He said, “We will plant more trees and change the situation.”
Justice V. Gopal Gowda said for people to enjoy the actual freedom it was important to ensure water security for everyone. The water security will also lead to economic selfreliance for the people, he said. Kath Siddheswar Swamiji of Kolapur said that most of the droughts in the country are man-made and very fewer droughts are natural. He said that clouds never rain for people but they rain for the trees if we don’t plant trees, we won’t have rainfall either. He said that even during the monsoon season, water supply in many cities is happening through water tankers in Karnataka. He said to ensure rainfall we need to plant more trees and improve the health of the soil. Siddheswar Swamiji of Bijapur also stressed on the issues of planting trees and conserving the natural resources like water, forest and soil for the prosperity of the society and its people.
The technical session began with a presentation by the Department of Water Resouces, Government of Karnataka that highlighted the reasons of water scarcity in the state and steps being undertaken by the department to address the crisis. It underlined the scenario of water resource utilization, supply and demand side management, issues related to canal irrigation etc.
While coordinating the technical session, Jalpurush Dr. Rajendra Singh said that there was a need for the people to come together and start working on their own and not depend much on the political and administrative systems as they create boundaries between the people. He said for the peaceful co-existence of the people in the society, it was important to forget the political and administrative boundaries and look forward to the boundaries of the rivers as they never discriminate or create boundaries, it’s we who do that out of arrogance. Water security cannot be ensured unless the rights of the rivers were safeguarded.
The Waterman exhorted everyone to go and work on the rivers in their respective regions to bring peace and prosperity in the society. Fighting over water and water bodies would never bring peace to the society, he said. Singh said that many cases of conflicts over water are pending in the courts but the Indian judiciary isn’t capable of solving them as it can be seen in the case of Cauvery river’s dispute which is pending in courts for last 45 years. He appealed to the people to take small efforts of water conservation in their areas as such efforts reduce the chances of corruption. He said that science, engineering, and technology of India never cared about the freedom of the rivers. The scientific community in India never thought about how could power be generated and irrigation is done without obstructing the natural flow of the rivers. He questioned how can we call the today’s rivers as rivers when they have lost their capacity in them to sustain lives due to less amount of water, oxygen, and rampant pollution etc.
The session also saw various river activists coming from various states and regions of the country and sharing the information about the issues being faced by the rivers and their initiatives to protect them. These included: Sudarshan Das from Odisha working on Mahanadi; Mathkar Kaka from Seva Gram Ashram, Wardha; Dr. Snehal Dande from Mumbai working on Ganga in Bihar and West Bengal; Pankaj Malviya who carried out yatra along Ganga in Bihar; Aniket, Manavlok, Maharashtra worked for rejuvenation of two rivers – Horna and Vana; K. Neera of Karnataka; Dr. Dwarka Das Lohiya, Manavlok, Maharashtra; Satya and Amol Gandhi working on Krishna river; Prof. Vikram Soni; Ramesh, working on Yamuna river; Narendra Chung, working on Chandrabhaga and Bhima rivers in Maharashtra; Dura Swami and Dhanraj from Tamil Nadu; Sarla Ji from Kerala and others.
While moderating the technical session, Waterman Dr. Rajendra Singh asked the participants from various regions of the country to form a Nadi sansad in the name of their rivers and chalk out plans during their respective river parliaments of the convention to carry out water literacy activities in their local languages and dialects to make it effective. He said that natural droughts in India are not more than 40% whereas over 60% droughts are man-made.
The Waterman said that for preventing droughts and floods, it was important to stop soil erosion by improving its health through the plantation. He said that checking soil erosion would also prevent silting and hence the floods. The droughts and floods should not be looked at separately as they are two facets of the same coin.
Day-2: River Parliament
Second Day was dedicated for River Basin Organizations, Several Halls Activists of Specific River Basin started discussing problems and to develop strategies to resolve those problems and specific Action Plan. Reports of discussion of specific River Basin are shared in Annexure I. Some overall major point to be discussed are in those Halls:
- To connect the mind and heart of the society of India, people, and Scientist with the rivers of India is the primary goal.
- To connect everyone with this work in this direction to make the river of India, pure and perennial, is the ultimate goal.
- Formation of river valley organizations in the class six tributaries of Indian rivers.
- Enhance the process for enactment of the law to protect both rivers and human rights.
- In order to save India from the path of drought, flood & famine, prevention of the soil erosion and deposit in the river bed is to make done and to stop pollution, keep the river and the sewage separately.
River Action Plan
- Matching with colleagues working in the River
- Communicate with River lovers.
- Formation of river valley organizations.
- Compilation and analysis of studies on River.
- Meets of those who work on the river River.
- Plan for River Yatra.
- Documenting the efforts being made from the government level on River.
- Training of river valley organizations
- Large Plantation
- Public social action to mark the mining and encroachment in the river and to prevent it.
- Sensitizing the technical institutes for River’s ecological studies.
- Organizing River consciousness Yatra to connect the minds of people with rivers
- The right of the river to be connected with the human rights is to be given as the priority. The realization of these two is the same. Therefore, there is a need to work equally for them. It’s important to generate feeling and emphasis among the people.
Day-3: August 18, 2017
The Technical session
on the day-3 of the National, Water Convention saw the discussion over the first draft of
Vijayapura Declaration after its presentation to the delegates by Jal Biradari’s Vinod
Bodhankar. The key decisions to have been included in the draft “to ensure water, food and livelihood security and climate resilience through a drought and flood-free India” included:
- Accepting river basin as the model for width of study and teamwork
- Liberating the rivers from encroachment
- Government must respect the ecological and hydrological integrity of the river by declaring the river system as a reserved protected zone after identifying, demarcating notifying the domain
- Liberating the rivers from pollution
- Finding solution to salinity
- Separating the sewer from the river. The water treated by STPs must be reused after being found suitable
- Setting up the standard of river water’s health as 8 ppm (dissolved oxygen) as commensurable with international standards
- Liberating the river and their catchment area from ever-exploitation
- Shifting land-use pattern to a healthier situation
- The river and law
- Working to prevent drought and floods in river basin
- River basins synergy leading to formation of river parliament
- Transformation of river basin villages as the key
- Setting up Jal Saksharta Kendra in every state
The declaration also stated, “Water security alone will ensure food security and mankind’s resilience in the face of the climate change.” A total of 21 rivers were listed for the creation of river parliaments which would work for protecting the rivers’ health and ensuring their natural flow.
Bodhankar during the presentation said that the implementation of the decisions included in the declaration would need contribution from all sections of the society. He said that Sant, Samaj, Sashan and Mahajan (saints, society, government and all other kindhearted and concerned people) are the four wheels of a vehicle and therefore, everyone would have to play their role in seeing the execution of the Declaration’s recommendations.
The presentation of the declaration’s draft was followed by some suggestions for some other important issues to be incorporated in it.
Dr. Snehal S. Donde underlined two issues which were: (1) the issue of rehabilitation on Ganga basin beside the issue of encroachment and (2) the introduction of law regarding formation of ‘no-man’s land’ in Ganga basin due to erosion and sedimentation
Riaz Ahmad of Vijayapura suggested that: (1) declaration should also aim at ensuring
15% of MNREGA’s fund being spent on water-related work at the village-level like construction of wells, tanks, ponds, tube-wells etc. and (2) it should bring awareness among the farmers of the nation that India is a land of great souls like Buddha and Gandhi who advocated for simple living and minimum consumption to protect the nature from exploitation.
Asha from Vijayapura advised that people should be educated to use their votes carefully and cast them only to those who include the issues of water, land and forest in their manifestoes.
Towards the end of the technical session, water warriors from various parts of the country working on different rivers and water bodies were felicitated by the Waterman of India, Dr. Rajendra Singh by tying turban and giving a certificate.
In his address during the concluding session, Water Man Dr. Rajendra Singh applauded the good work done by the Karnataka government in water conservation sector in the last three years. It was these unique initiatives of the state government in the water management sector like interlinking rivers with tanks that motivated us to hold the national convention in Vijayapura, the water heritage city of the country instead of Delhi. Dr. Singh also thanked the chief minister of the state for allowing the event to be held in Vijayapura.
Highlighting the key points of the Vijayapura Declaration the Waterman said it would aim at checking erosion, rejuvenating rivers, rainwater harvesting, recharging aquifers to make the water flow and others. The Magsaysay award winner exhorted the Raj, Samaj, and Sant to work together in this direction so that decisions of the declaration could be implemented. He expressed faith that the governments both at the center and in different states would understand the gravity of the situation and cooperate in seeing the decisions being implemented at the ground-level.
Vinod Bodhankar of Jal Biradari was felicitated by the chief minister of Karnataka and Waterman of India for his extraordinary work of reaching out to over 2 lakh school children and educating them not to let plastic reach the rivers by doing away with its use in their daily lives.
This was followed by the adoption of Vijayapura Declaration in the presence of the chief minister, Siddaramaiah, Dr. Rajendra Singh, water resources minister of the state, MB Patil, Swami Mrityunjaya, Swami Murugam and others.
While addressing the convention, the state chief minister said that Karnataka has seen droughts in 13 out of last 16 years and therefore, the state government is taking special initiatives to make the state drought resilient through projects like micro irrigation, interlinking rivers with tanks and others. Calling the National Water Convention as a historic event, he said that implementation of the declaration would be crucial for the state in terms of water security.
The delegates at the national convention demanded a ‘one-day special session’ to be held on the Vijayapura Declaration at NITI Ayog, parliament and in the state assemblies to discuss and deliberate upon implementing its recommendations.
The concluding session was followed by lunch after which the Waterman of India met the delegates from across the nation informally and expressed gratitude towards them for coming and contributing in the drafting of the declaration. He also thanked all those who were looking after the management of the national event. Besides, he also urged all those working in water conservation sector to refrain from being proud of their work as even an iota of pride would lead to a decline in their spirit of continuing their noble work.