Right now, we are obsessed about pollution because America and Europe talk about it. We have this ailment that whatever is said in Europe or America, Indians want to repeat. Pollution is not the real problem. We must understand that if sewage water stops going into the rivers, most rivers will not flow. Take the Yamuna for example. Ninety percent of it is sewage water. If you stop all the sewage water, there will be no Yamuna. The realities of a tropical nation are very different from a nation with temperate climate. For the latitude in which we are and the kind of land we have, it is very different. Fundamentally, we have a misunderstanding that a river is a source of water. No.
There is only one source of water—monsoon rain. Rivers, ponds, lakes and wells are destinations for the water.The monsoon rains every year shed around 3.6 to 4 trillion tonnes of water, approximately, on this land. When this was a lush rain-forest or a tropical forest, we held a large part of it in the land as groundwater and let it out slowly, so rivers flowed. In the last 100 years, there has been no significant dip in the volume of water that the monsoons are shedding on the subcontinent.
But all the rivers on an average have depleted over 40 percent. The Krishna, Narmada and the Ganga have depleted over 60 percent, 55 percent and 40 percent respectively. The European rivers are largely glacier-fed, while Indian rivers are forest-fed. Only 4 percent of India’s river water is glacier-fed, and that is only up in the north. Of these glacier-fed rivers, most flow into Pakistan. Only a little bit of water in the Ganga is glacier-fed, the rest of the rivers are all forest-fed.
The Ganga basin accounts for 26 percent of India’s geography and almost a third of agriculture. To build the railways, we ripped off vegetation in that whole region. In 70 years’ time we have taken down 78 percent of tree cover in the Ganga basin, and you expect that river to flow? You are still talking about pollution? If we make up our minds, we can fully fix the pollution in two to three years’ time. If we are determined and invest the money, we can make sure that the water is clean. But when a river depletes, it will take decades of action to bring it back.
But whichever way you try to talk about it, everybody wants to talk about pollution, because city people are suffering from pollution and all the investment, power and the power of the gab is also in the hands of the city people. Well, now, they have started talking about water shortage because there is no drinking water in the cities. According to the Composite Water Management Index report released by the NITI Aayog recently, many major cities including Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad may have no groundwater by 2020, affecting nearly a 100 million people.
No population on the planet is as water-distressed as the Indian population. It has 17 percent of the world’s population but only about 3.5 percent of the world’s water resources. At any time, no population should use more than 15 to 25 percent of its groundwater resources. But today, over 80 percent of the water we consume and use is groundwater resources.
Despite that, most cities are in fear of rain because they know floods will follow. They don’t know how to manage a flood. If it rained and if there was enough vegetation, there would be no flooding. If we plant 10,000 trees, nearly 36 million litres of water sequestering will happen. So, now, in the Cauvery basin, we are looking at planting 2.42 billion trees as part of Cauvery Calling. Ultimately, a variety of vegetation is needed for the rivers to flow. Before we fall dead, we must make this happen.
Sadhguru is a yogi, mystic, a bestselling author and poet. He was conferred the Padma Vibhushan in 2017. Isha.sadhguru.org