Meeting with His Excellency Former President APJ Abdul Kalam
Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, Founder of Ganga Action Parivar, met with His Excellency, Former President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam at Dr. Kalam’s New Delhi Offices this February.
During the meeting, Pujya Swamiji and Dr. Kalam discussed GAP and the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA), which is bringing together the power of our world’s faiths to ensure even the most marginalized people have access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). Every day, some 1,600 children die mostly preventable deaths due to deplorable WASH conditions. For this reason, India leads the world in the number of children under the age of five who die every year.
Said Pujya Swamiji, “we can no longer sit idly in our prayer rooms while children are dying painful and preventable deaths due to unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene. That is why the faiths are combining forces to ensure everyone has access to clean water and proper sanitation and hygiene. In light of our nation’s growing population and the rapid degradation of our natural resources, the need couldn’t be greater than it is right now.”
Working Towards the Sustainable Development of Disaster-Torn Uttarakhand
Ganga Action Parivar is working alongside many partners to ensure sustainable disaster risk reduction and rebuilding in the disaster-torn Himalayas, under the umbrella of Project Hope, which was founded by Pujya Swamiji in the aftermath of the 2002 South Indian Tsunami.
Among the plans being carried forth by Project Hope is the promotion of the planting of trees and organic farming in the area, in order to improve economic growth, stem landslide-inducing soil erosion and protect fragile natural resources, such as the Ganga River, from toxic agricultural run-off.
Said Pujya Swamiji, “every day, one billion litres of toxic chemicals pour into the Ganga River due to industry and agriculture. Because of this, our beautiful natural resources are decaying and far too many people are sickening and dying. This is why when we chant, ‘Jai Jai Gange,’ we should also say, ‘Jaivik Gange,’ so that our Natural River and those who depend on Her are protected through the planting of trees and practices including organic farming.”
The National Ganga River Rights Act Discussed
Near the conclusion of their meeting, Pujya Swamiji presented to President Kalam a draft of the proposed National Ganga River Rights Act. The Act, which was drafted by Ganga Action Parivar, GIWA and the renowned Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), is the first of its kind to place our National River within a legal rights-based framework.
Said Pujya Swamiji, “The National Ganga River Rights Act is reflective of the fact that when Mother Ganga’s rights are violated, for example, by polluting or draining Her waters, all of our rights are violated. Water, in and of itself, is a basic human right, which we all need to survive. When it is threatened, we are all threatened, because disease and preventable suffering ensues. That’s why so many people from around the world are now coming together in support of the Act, saying, ‘Ganga’s Rights are Our Rights’.”
President Abdul Kalam was deeply encouraged by Pujya Swamiji’s sustainable action plans and stated his full support to spread its messages
to the masses, especially to the youth of India, beginning in the Himalayas.