Why Sadhguru Chose Cauvery
Sadhguru shares his intimate connection with Cauvery and explains why he chose Cauvery as a model for river revitalization.
My Blood Is Cauvery
Sadhguru : I grew up around Cauvery. I am probably one of the very few people who engaged with the river at that stage of my life. The other children had other responsibilities – while they had to study and go to school, I went to the river.
What looked like aimless wandering at that age has become formidable knowledge today. People wonder, “Sadhguru, are you an environmentalist? How do you know all these things?” No, I just lived on this planet for six decades and I have paid attention, that’s all! If you sit and observe, can't you see what is happening? Do you need to read it in a book?
There are many things I can say about Cauvery. Most of the blood flowing in my body is Cauvery. For a large number of Tamil and Kannada people, their blood and body is Cauvery. I have lived off this river many times by myself. Between the ages of twelve and seventeen, I swam in Cauvery almost every day.
When I was a little over seventeen, I rafted down the river for 163 kilometers. I floated down Cauvery on just four truck tubes and a few bamboos for thirteen days. It is not a rapid river; it comes slowly. I floated down from Bhagamandala to KR Nagar and fished and lived off the river. I never experienced the river as some kind of a natural resource. I just saw it as a life beyond me, a much bigger life than who I am, and much more enduring. People like you and me come and go, but she has been flowing for a million years.
But today we have really made Cauvery go down on her knees.
A Wealth That Is Disappearing
If we say the word “Cauvery,” people do not think of the beauty or wonderful nature of Cauvery. In the rest of the country, people will say, “Oh, the Cauvery problem!” Cauvery is not a problem. Cauvery has been the source of our prosperity and our wellbeing for millennia. Now it has become a problem because it is depleting.
People think Kannada people and Tamil people are always fighting. They are fighting because there is only one glass of water and two people want to drink. It is time both of us have a glass of water for ourselves. Only then we will be friends. Otherwise there will be unnecessary disputes going on. Cauvery has receded by 40% in the last fifty years because we have removed 87% of the green cover in the Cauvery basin.
In this country, our only source of water is the rain from the monsoon that pours down over 60 days. We are supposed to hold all this water for 365 days of the year. The only sustainable way to hold water is by putting enough vegetation on the land. If the soil is rich with organic matter from plant and animal waste, it will retain the water, which trickles down to groundwater and then into the river.
With agriculture occupying over eighty percent of the usable land in India, the only way forward is agroforestry – to encourage farmers to shift to organic tree-based agriculture. We have been converting around 4000 farmers per year into agroforestry, but if we go at this pace it may take 80-100 years to revitalize the river.
This is why we have initiated the “Cauvery Calling” project, where we are seeing how to crush this time into twelve years. There is well established scientific data to show that every tree that you plant, when it becomes big enough in about twelve years’ time, will retain approximately 3800 liters of water in the soil. In the Cauvery basin, we want to plant 242 crore trees in the region, putting one-third of the region under shade. If we do this, Cauvery will definitely flow.
From Suffering to Success
This project is not about my attachment to Cauvery. I could have taken up the revitalization of Narmada, Godavari, or Ganga. But I chose Cauvery because I foresee that immense suffering will come to these two cities of Bengaluru and Chennai.
Just some time ago, a pregnant woman was shot dead in Uttar Pradesh over a water fight. Women have been fighting forever on the streets of Tamil Nadu for water, but nobody paid any attention. They thought, “It’s okay, it’s just women fighting.” When women were fighting, they just abused each other. Now it is the men who are out there to collect water, and when they fight, they kill. Why does everything have to happen before we see it coming? Most people will not wake up unless something pokes them very hard.
The unfortunate reality is that Cauvery Calling will succeed because of the sufferings of Bengaluru and Chennai people, not because of the sufferings of the farmers. We have been counting the suicides of the farmers like a cricket score. “Last year it was that many thousand, this year it has come down,” and everybody is happy. Even if one man hangs himself in this country because he cannot pay his loan, is it not a shame? Eighty-three percent of Tamil farmers are debt ridden. Seventy-seven percent of Kannada farmers are debt ridden. The way things are going, they will never be able to pay off their loans.
If we have to transform rural India into a place worth living in, a key aspect is to make agriculture a lucrative process. Shifting to tree-based agriculture not only replenishes the river and soil, it can also increase a farmer’s income by three to eight times.
Cauvery Calling is not just for Cauvery. We want to show that reviving ecology can be very lucrative for the land owner. Once it becomes an economic success, after that it will just happen everywhere. Farmers across the country will naturally want to take to it.