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Magazine Web Edition > July/August/September 2013 > Environment: Promoting a Green Gathering
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ENVIRONMENT

Promoting a Green Gathering

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The head of Parmarth Niketan explains why he took his “Clean the Ganga” movement to Sangam

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BY SWAMI CHIDANAND SARASWATI (MUNIJI)

THE MAHA KUMBH MELA WAS A HISTORIC EVENT, not only because of the huge, teeming crowds of devotees from every corner of the Earth, but especially because of its unprecedented emphasis, awareness and focus on environmental protection. I have been attending Kumbh Melas and the Ardh Kumbh Melas since 1974, and this is the first one where the “green” aspect was so prevalent. We have been working for many years to have this Green Kumbh Initiative, which I feel was most successful. Thousands of students from local schools, the fisherman community, judges and advocates of the High Court, professors and students from the university and so, so many local people all came together at various times of the Kumbh to take part in the programs, conferences, events and actions we organized as part of this Green Kumbh Initiative.

The impact has been successful and lasting. To keep up the momentum and focus, a Paryavarn Kumbha, Environmental Kumbha, will be held in Allahabad on the 19th and 20th of April. Judges and advocates have become more aware of the crucial need to uphold and create laws protecting the natural environment, and particularly Ganga. Local people—not only from Allahabad but from all over India—have become educated, informed and inspired about the ways they can help protect Ganga. Another wonderful outcome was that our Cabinet Minister for Water Resources came to our Kumbh Mela camp. He was impressed and touched by the compelling aspects of the work for Ganga, Yamuna and the Green Kumbha. Then, just a few weeks ago, in the immediate wake of Kumbh, I helped to mediate an agreement between him and Yamuna activists from the Vrindavan/Mathura area in which he has officially agreed to build canals alongside the banks of the Yamuna into which the sewage will flow instead of into the Yamuna. Coming just three weeks after the Kumbh, this is a major positive result.

The biggest challenges we face are in the form of educating the general population about the crucial nature of the situation. Ganga is a Divine Goddess who came down from Heaven, in the form of the river, to liberate the sons of King Sagara. Therefore, Her divinity, Her purity, Her perfection, the essence of Divine Ganga—the moksha-giving, liberating nature of Ganga—existed before She took this form and continues to exist regardless of how “clean” or “dirty” the actual water molecules may be. So people sometimes have difficulty separating the inherent purity, perfection and divinity of Ganga from the current polluted nature of Her waters.

Some 450 million people depend upon Ganga every day of their lives—not on Her divine essence for moksha, liberation or divine connection, but on the very physical water molecules they need for their drinking water, cooking water and irrigation water. Their very lives and livelihoods depend upon Her water staying not only pure but also clean.

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Taking action: Swamiji pitches in with his gurukulam students and devotees to clean the Ganga at the Kumbh
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