ivers have played a significant part in the rise and fall of civilizations across cultures since times immemorial. All great civilizations have been founded along courses of important rivers. It has been the river that has been the focal point of cultures such as the Egyptians, Vedic Indians, Mesopotamians and Chinese. Rivers not only provided water for nourishing the fields but were also used for navigation and trade and commerce.
Our country has been an agriculture based economy since early times. It is also a well known fact that farmers continue to depend on monsoon to irrigate their fields. Any shortfall in rains would, therefore, affect agricultural production and cause havoc in the lives of farmers. Under such circumstances water conservation becomes all the more important. It was for this reason that in past the kings commissioned the construction of water bodies. These water bodies served both as a water reservoir and helped in improving the ground water level which was important from the point of view of raising the water table.
Rivers have a profound cultural significance too. Indians consider ever river a Devi (Goddess) and accord her the utmost respect. Besides the major rivers, every river and its tributary are considered holy. Because the river nourishes the land and provides for human needs she is accorded the status of mother.
Maharashtra- situation and government initiatives:
2015 was a rain deficit year and much of Maharashtra was reeling under drought. A shortfall in rain literally spells doom for farmers. Much of the Vidarbha region is drought prone as it is and in the complete absence of monsoon farming becomes a casualty. The ground water level had been depleting year after year due to bore well constructions. To address the water woes of the citizenry in general and farmers in particular the Maharashtra government launched the ‘Jalyukt Shivar’. As per the state government’s official website “Maharashtra government has launched the project “Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyaan” in a bid to make Maharashtra a drought-free state by 2019. The project involves deepening and widening of streams, construction of cement and earthen stop dams, work on nullahs and digging of farm ponds”.
This project involves cleaning water bodies, creating awareness among the public with respect to rainwater harvesting, making farmers aware about the need for better irrigation methods, constructing new water storage and reviving old ones, repairing canals, dams and other such structures, de-silting, deepening and widening water bodies and other similar activities. In essence this is a three pronged approach namely conserve the available water, prevent run-offs and other similar wastage and last but not the least improve ground water level. As we all know ground water plays a very significant role in the water cycle and hence equal, if not more, emphasis has been placed on that aspect as well.
Contribution of Art of Living Foundation:
The Art of Living Foundation, under the guidance of Sri Sri Ravishankar, started the Jal Jagruti Abhiyaan. Under this initiative the foundation undertook de-silting rivers and increasing their holding capacity, cleaning the beds of debris and waste, and strengthening river banks to hold up during floods at a number of points in various districts. A total of 22 rivers were cleaned including Therna, Gharni and several others. The project has covered 33 villages in 4 drought affected districts thereby benefitting more than 80,000 people. Besides de-silting and cleaning rivers the volunteers have also undertaken the task of constructing barrages and canals, recharging underground aquifers and cleansing as well constructing tanks in villages.
Most of these works have been carried out in drought prone areas which multiply their significance. The revival of these rivers and other water bodies not only means better water supply for human needs but rejuvenates an entire ecosystem. More water conservation and rivers in full spate translates to better bio-diversity, more trees in and around the water bodies and a revival of the fauna as well.
The significance and importance of the revival of a river is much more than just supplying water for human needs. Every river carries with it a story and a tale of people living along its banks. That’s how great civilizations came to be built and etched in memories of generations to come. A river is essentially history flowing down through sands of time. Some of them shape history like the mighty Saraswati and Ganges while others get immersed in local folklore. Either ways revival of a river signifies revival of life along the path of its journey!!!
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