All rivers in India, on an average in the last 70 years since Independence, have depleted by nearly 40 per cent.
Many rivers like the Krishna and Narmada have depleted over 60 per cent. For several months in a year, the Cauvery dries up almost 170 km inland in Tamil Nadu, and does not touch the ocean.
This water distress is not only today. Womenfolk have been fighting at the taps for a long time and it has become a cultural thing.
Every day they have to stand in a long queue near the tap, but the tap is wet only for one hour. If it gets over she has to fight and jump the queue somehow.
Abuses would flow endlessly. Now that men have entered the scene, because the situation has become direr, killings will happen. The civil strife that is waiting on our hands is big.
Capturing the Monsoon Rain: India’s water comes in a downpour during the monsoon.
If we hold it, the rivers will flow for 365 days. If we do not hold it, it will run away within the next 15 or 20 days. So what allows us to hold the water? The only way is through vegetation.
There is no rocket science to this. We have to put back the green cover in this country. There is too much population pressure on the land so we cannot increase the forest cover. The only other way is to go for agroforestry—we grow forests for economic reasons.
This is not a new idea or concept. In southern India, in any agricultural land, there always used to be a minimum of 25 to 50 trees, at least on the boundary.
If they cut a tree, their daughter’s marriage is taken care of, their son’s university education is taken care of.
But 40 years ago, agents from fertiliser industries came and campaigned, “You have to remove the trees. They are sucking out all the fertiliser because of their aggressive root system. The fertiliser will not go to your crops.” So crores of trees across Karnataka were felled.
In just two generations, we have come to a place where groundwater has depleted tremendously, river water is going away, every water source is just depleting.
Natural farming is the only sustainable way: Natural or eco-farming is the only way that future generations can live well.
There must be leaves from the tree and animal waste for the soil to be rich. If farmers shift to agroforestry, it will not only replenish the river and soil but will also increase a farmer’s income by three to eight times.
It is in this context that I launched Cauvery Calling. We are looking at supporting farmers to plant 242 crore trees in the Cauvery basin.
Cauvery is only the first step. If we successfully pull this off in 12 years’ time in the Cauvery basin, this will be a game-changer for the nation and for the tropical world.
To assist the farmer to shift to agroforestry, large-scale development of saplings needs to happen. Taking in all the aspects, it costs about Rs 42 per sapling.
We are crowd-sourcing the fund. Everybody who consumes water must join together. This should be our gift to the future generations—that we revived the Cauvery.