Cauvery Calling is a first of its kind campaign, setting the standard for how India’s rivers – the country’s lifelines – can be revitalized. It will initiate the revitalization of Cauvery river and transform the lives of 84 million people.
“Cauvery has been the source of wellbeing, prosperity and the very source of life for these lands. A forest-fed perennial river is fast becoming a seasonal stream as 87% of tree cover has been removed in 50 years. Cauvery is calling, do you have a heart to hear?”
Cauvery Calling is a first of its kind campaign, setting the standard for how India’s rivers – the country’s lifelines – can be revitalized. It will initiate the revitalization of Cauvery river and transform the lives of 84 million people.
Story So Far
Cauvery Calling is a movement that has germinated from a seed that was planted 23 years ago.
In 1998, a team of UN experts predicted that by 2025, nearly 60% of Tamil Nadu would become a desert. That this rich land, which has been farmed continuously for more than 12,000 years, could become a desert seemed inconceivable to Sadhguru, who, in his own words, doesn’t like predictions. Sadhguru decided to drive around Tamil Nadu to assess the situation himself. He knew then that we might not even make it to 2025… not only had small rivers dried up and homes built on their riverbeds, there was not enough moisture in the soil for even palm trees – typical desert vegetation – to survive. It was evident that rampant loss of tree cover was rapidly leaving the once-rich soil barren and turning the land into desert. It was at this point that the blueprint to bring back green cover and turn the tide for our Soil and Water was conceived.
The initial years were spent in creating a core group of people with a deep understanding and concern for the environment. The very first activity we engaged in was to green our own backyard. The glorious Velliangiri Hills, which form the backdrop of the Isha Yoga Center, had been stripped bare, brown from years of illegal timber trade. Under Sadhguru’s guidance, a few hundred volunteers joined forces. Over 22 days, using simple implements, they went up these hills and sowed close to six million seeds of native species. Today our Velliangiris are moist and green right through the torrid summer months. This momentum segued in 2002 into Vanashree Eco Center, a volunteer-driven tree planting initiative.
Planting Trees in People’s Minds
With desertification looming over the state, Sadhguru conceived and communicated the plan for Tamil Nadu to meet the national aspiration of 33% green cover. He estimated that close to 114 million trees would be needed to be planted across the state to achieve this goal. People around Sadhguru were flabbergasted: at the time, this felt like an impossibly ambitious task.
Sadhguru first set about “planting trees in people’s minds” – the most difficult of terrains! Leading people through experiential processes where they were able to perceive how intimately our lives and our life-breath are connected to trees, Sadhguru opened their hearts to the vital need for restoration.
The Formative Years
Project GreenHands (PGH) was launched in 2004 and, in many ways, it was the pilot and the proof-of-concept for the massive work that is underway today. PGH had many largescale initiatives such as the Green School Movement and Trees for All to involve young, school-going children and the general public. It also had intensive programs to collaborate with Farmers, including the Isha Agro Movement, based on the principles of organic farming, and Trees for Life, an initiative based on the agroforestry model. In all, 38 million saplings were delivered through Isha nurseries and these projects facilitated close to 70,000 farmers into some form or degree of tree-based agriculture. For these phenomenal efforts, and a Guinness record for the largest single-day tree plantation drive, Isha received India’s highest environmental award, the Indira Gandhi Paryavaran Puraskar, in 2010.
The Big Bang
Heartening as these achievements were, they still lacked the scale required to reverse the disastrous course we had set for India’s Rivers through our collective mismanagement. What was needed was drastic, wide-reaching awareness, a redirection of National Policy and urgent action on the ground. Sadhguru stepped forward to inspire this revolution. In 2017, leading the month-long ‘Rally for Rivers’ through 16 Indian states governed by parties across the political spectrum, garnering the support of 162 million people, Sadhguru arrived in New Delhi to present to the Prime Minister a 761-page report titled Revitalization of Rivers in India: Draft Policy Recommendation. This intensive and exhaustive document – prepared with inputs from various experts from diverse fields relating to forestry, soil, agriculture, governance, finance, corporate, education and development – was taken up for study and action with tremendous alacrity by the Union Government. Under the aegis of the NITI Aayog (a policy think tank of the Government of India, established to achieve Sustainable Development Goals), an Inter-ministerial Committee of government secretaries and experts evaluated the draft policy in detail, and then went on to issue a policy advisory to all 29 state governments about the principles and policies relating to river revitalization. Things started to look up when several state governments across the nation began to implement these recommendations.
Cauvery is Calling
In the summer of 2019, the city of Chennai was hit by a water crisis of horrifying proportions. As with so many of India’s large riverine systems, Cauvery, the lifeline of southern India, was rapidly dying. This crisis, in conjunction with several allied issues such as poor soil health, cycles of flood and drought, the resultant farmer distress and migration, was creating a situation of growing despair. Immediate action was called for.
At Isha, we were already aware that a large-scale demonstration of the recommended model of eco-restoration was vital to its widespread adoption. Therefore, when this crisis presented itself, it was the cue to embark on our mammoth on-ground demonstration for River Revitalization through the ‘Tree-based Agriculture’ model. Cauvery Calling – the World’s Largest Farmer Driven Eco-Movement – was launched.
The ambition is to enable 5.2 million farmers to plant 2.42 billion trees in the Cauvery River Basin in a span of 12 years. We are facilitating the farmers in a multi faceted way to adopt tree-based agriculture, and eventually bring one-third of the basin under tree cover. From the preparation of quality saplings to ensuring farmer uptake; from farmer education to farmer support; from engaging with governments to bring about required policy redirections and incentives to support farmer to adopt this model to roping in allied NGOs – we are working at every conceivable level to scale up this movement. This has included working extensively with the Union Government and the concerned State Governments – leading tangibly to several policy reforms. These reforms cover a broad range of aspects affecting the farmer – from reforms in agricultural practices at one end, to helping make Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) viable and giving them tax incentives, at the other.
The most fantastic part of this journey has been that we have succeeded in bringing together all stakeholders from every section of society including farmers, scientists, civil society groups, state governments, the citizens and the media, and inspiring them focus their energies on a common ecological goal. For the Farmer, it is a highly lucrative economic model with significant ecological benefits. For the State and Citizens, it is a double win.
The stream of action is widening evermore. The impact we have already seen in the pilot years in terms of soil quality, groundwater sequestration, improved farmer income and the benefits of increased green cover, are all on road to being demonstrated exponentially with this massive on-ground movement. The vision is to establish a blueprint for Tropical River Restoration that can be replicated and implemented across the planet. The idea is to innovate, demonstrate, amplify and inspire Planetary Scale. Already, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India, has prepared Detailed Project Reports on rejuvenating 13 of the country’s rivers based on a like model. This confluence of effort, scientific understanding and upsurge of Human Consciousness – this is the goal of the Cauvery Calling Movement.
In this gargantuan endeavor, we hold an open door to anyone who wishes to work and support to make this happen. Individual human beings, governments, corporations, organizations, international entities – we seek, and welcome, and value your support. The true fruition of this project would be in Humanity coming together to aid and amplify its success.
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A Blueprint For The Tropical World
Revitalizing the Land, the Water and the Lives of 84 million people in India
1.0 The Problem: Soil, Water and Livelihood challenge facing 4.7 billion people
Our collective mismanagement of the earth has manifested itself in myriad symptoms – including climate change, loss of topsoil and fertility, dwindling water resources, and the related farmer distress around the world. At risk is the world’s food security, water security, and the livelihoods of billions of people linked to the agrarian economy – especially so in the tropical world that is home to 4.7 billion people. India is one of the worst affected regions – with a 40% or more decline in its rivers in just two generations, due to more than 70% loss in green cover in the river basin areas. As a result, soil fertility is declining, there are more droughts and floods, and there is acute agrarian distress with a rising tide of farmer suicides. Not surprisingly, 24% of the world, and 32% of India, is turning into a desert.
Given this backdrop, the Cauvery River, which has been a life-line of South India for many millennia, is now dying. At stake is 83000 square kilometers of the river’s basin, which until recent years had been one of the most fertile lands in India, and is home today to 84 million people.
2.0 The Solution: Creating the world’s largest farmer-driven ecological movement
At its heart, the core idea underpinning Cauvery Calling is breathtakingly simple and scalable. In heavily populated tropical countries like India, large tracts of additional land simply don’t exist to put under more forest cover. Therefore the solution is to bring tree cover onto the vast tracts of private farm land – via an in part adoption of tree based agriculture by farmers.
Importantly, the entire approach is based on the insight that impoverished rural farmers will adopt tree agriculture only if there is a strong market driven financial incentive of dramatically increasing their livelihoods. Consequently this entirely voluntary adoption of agroforestry by farmers is underpinned by an underlying economic model where-by farmer incomes are going up between three to eight times. It is therefore evident that in a country where 690 million people live in relative poverty, Cauvery Calling, is a ground-breaking eco-restoration movement that marries ecology with economy.
Given that this movement at its heart is voluntarily propelled by farmers for an underlying economic rationale, the possibility of large scale change becomes self-evident. This movement therefore is addressing the ecological and economic concerns of the entire Cauvery River basin area – a massive geographic expanse of 83,000 square kilometers, with 84 million people, and an economy propelled by 5.2 million farmers in the states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka in Southern India. The target is to help the 5.2 million farmers bring the land under green cover by planting 2.42 billion trees in a span of 12 years.
Watch Cauvery Calling: A Race To Save a River, a documentary film by Discovery Channel
3.0 Unprecedented scaleup in recent years:
The Cauvery Calling approach has been painstakingly developed and refined on the ground for more than two decades starting from 1998. The initial decade was spent in developing the model, building the capabilities, creating the people linkages, and generating favourable word of mouth through widespread on-ground farmer success stories. With that in place, the last three years have been devoted to scaling the program up to its full potential.
In 2017, this scaleup of the agroforestry model got dramatic impetus when Sadhguru, the Founder of Isha, created a nation-wide Peoples’ Movement to ensure long-term sustainability of this holistic way of addressing our soil, water and livelihood challenges. This encompassed both the rural farmers who adopt tree-based agriculture, and also the urban population which supports the cause with funding. An unprecedented 162 million people in India actively expressed their support during this month long on-ground rally.
In 2018, a key additional focus of effort was to facilitate various changes in government policy necessary for large scale rural adoption of tree based agriculture. These were done on the back of a comprehensive set of technical recommendations that were submitted to the Government, and which in turn formed the cornerstone of the Government River Revitalization Advisory in June 2018.
In 2019, with the various building blocks now in place, we dramatically expanded the geographic scope and scale of the initiative to cover all 83,000 square kilometers of the Cauvery River basin – an area that supports 84 million people. Our objective was to now bring tree-based agriculture to 5.2 million farmers. A massive onground mobilization was done in Sep 2019 by Sadhguru via the medium of a motorcycle rally. In doing so, a People’s movement was shaped across the length and breadth of the Cauvery river basin.
In 2020, partnerships with 200 local NGOs were created to propel onground momentum. In the summer planting season, the efforts of the previous few years paid off in a big way when an unprecedented 11 million saplings were taken up by farmers in spite of being in the midst of the Covid pandemic with all its attendant constraints. It is now evident that we are now firmly on the long-term trajectory to realize the full potential of this movement.
In recognition of this ground-breaking movement, the organization was awarded India’s highest environmental award, the Indira Gandhi Paryavaran Puraskar, instituted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India in 2010.
4.0 Why this is a game changer: Scalable and self-sustainable solution for land restoration and river revitalization
Cauvery Calling is a game-changer for the following key reasons:
- The immense scale of this onground effort which involves helping 5.2 million farmers to bring the land under green cover by planting 2.42 billion trees over 12 years.
- The movement’s ability to achieve its ambitious long-term goals is underpinned by two game-changing building blocks:
- The required scaleup of vegetative green cover is not constrained by the limited availability of forest land – as the movement targets the vast tracts of privately owned agricultural lands.
- The long-term sustainability of the initiative will be market-driven because it is propelled by significant increases in the incomes of otherwise impoverished farmers. Therefore this movement will not get constrained by availability of charitable contributions.
- A broad-based and all-inclusive People’s movement has been shaped on the back of a national-level 2017 public campaign that elicited the support of an unprecedented 162 million people, and then having another rally in 2019 to mobilize farmers and urban support. This movement encompasses Farmers, Civil Society, the Union and relevant State Governments, and NGOs. And all of this is underpinned by 23 years of concerted on-ground work.
5.0 Impact on humans and the natural world:
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change outlines that land-related restoration initiatives should be evaluated across 5 key areas – climate change adaptation, climate change mitigation, combating desertification and land degradation, food security and sustainable development. Cauvery Calling is one of the few projects that addresses all 5 areas. It is harnessing a powerful nature-based solution – agroforestry – to address ecosystem restoration (both soil and water), reversal of biodiversity loss, climate change mitigation, improved food security and nutritional value, crop diversification and risk reduction, climate change adaptation, and better livelihoods for millions of small-hold farmers.
The project impact can be summarized as below – and is based on having already enabled the planting of more than 50 million trees, of which 17 million trees have been planted by 107,639 farmers.
- Climate change adaptation:
- Farmers have become more resilient to floods and droughts as evidenced by low water stagnation during excessive rains, and reduced loss of yields during droughts.
- Livelihoods of impoverished farmers have been de-risked due to:
- Three to eight fold increase in their incomes.
- Having the safety net of possessing marketable trees.
- Needing less time for cultivation allows farmers to develop alternative skill sets and related earning opportunities.
- Climate change mitigation:
- The plan of planting 2.42 billion trees will result in sequestration of 200-300 million MtCO2 which is equivalent to 8-12% of India’s NDC for 2030.
- Reduced pressure on forests for tree produce.
- Combating desertification, land degradation:
- Organic content of soil has increased substantially.
- The 2.42 billion trees plan will sequester 9-12 trillion liters of water – revitalizing the soil, groundwater, and the Cauvery river.
- Many farmers have reclaimed their fallow lands.
- Food security:
- Increased soil fertility due to agroforestry has significantly improved the yields and the quality of various intercrops.
- Enhanced availability of fruits and improved soil quality result in an increased nutritional content for impoverished families.
- Sustainable development:
- The initiative addresses no fewer than nine sustainable development goals of the United Nations – i.e. goals number 1,2,6,8,10,12,13,15,17, as described in the graphic below.
- The required intensity of irrigation has significantly reduced due to enhanced moisture retention in soil.
- Biodiversity is going up as evidenced by increased populations of beneficial insects and earthworms, and the return of birds and small mammals with the trees.
- Slow down or reverse the current adverse trend of rural to urban migration.
Cauvery Calling promotes tree based agriculture which is more profitable to the farmer than the conventional method of monocropping systems. Farm households in the Cauvery Basin currently earn on an average ₹58,800 ($800) per year.
Our farm models developed by the farmers in the last decade in Tamil Nadu have shown that farmer incomes have increased manifold due to change in agricultural practices and adopting tree based agriculture. On an average farmer income has increased 3-8 times. Conversion of at least one third of farm area into tree based crops have ensured financial stability for the farmers.
Since farmers will be the major stakeholders of the movement, their economical sustainability will ensure the sustainability of the entire project.SDG 2
More than 60% of the population is in the agriculture sector in India. The improvement in soil quality will lead to improved yields in terms of volume and nutritional content. Increased agroforestry including horticulture, replacing cash crops like paddy and sugarcane also means higher production of fruits to supplement the diet in rural areas, where the poverty levels are much higher than in urban areas. Also, if their economic upliftment happens for the farmer as a result of sustainable farming, it will naturally address hunger and malnutrition. Agroforestry also affords greater resilience to extreme fluctuations in climate and increases the organic and moisture content of the soil under the tree canopies, which, in turn, results in sustainable food production.SDG 6
Clean Water and Sanitation for All
The plantation of 2.42 billion trees will result in sequestration of more than 9 trillion liters of water, ensure better quality of water across the basin as the increased river flow, and reduction in the use of chemical fertilizers due to agroforestry will promote the filtering of pollutants by tree roots.SDG 8
Decent work & Economic growth
Tree based agriculture will free farmers from labor intensive farming and help in developing allied livelihood related to the agriculture sector in value addition of produce and marketing related activities. This will bring back rural migration and offer better living standards with their families and communities. This is also envisioned to create more jobs in the rural agriculture landscape.SDG 10
So far, more than 107,639 farmers have been empowered to plant over 17.2 million trees on their farm lands. This has increased farmers’ incomes, de-risked them from the uncertainties of mono-cropping and water intensive agricultural practices. In addition, prosperity in the farming community would help slow down and reverse urban migration, and boost the rural economy.SDG 12
Responsible consumption and production
Cultivating forest produce in agricultural land is the only way to save our forests from being destroyed for timber and other products. With growing population and increased demand for forest produce, tree based agriculture is the future of sustainable agriculture balancing production and consumption of tree based products.SDG 13
Tree based agriculture is the best option in a country like India where more than 70% of the land is owned and cultivated by farmers. Trees are the best carbon sinks known to man which are directly related to climate action.SDG 15
Life on Land
Tree based agriculture enhances biodiversity in the soil and above earth as well. It’s a known fact that soil biodiversity has enhanced several folds with tree based farming. Trees create habitat for insects, small reptiles and birds which support the web of life. The perennial river flow, due to the additional 9 trillion litres of sequestered water, will ensure the protection of the Western Ghats – a global biodiversity hotspot. An abundance of timber supply from agroforestry will reduce deforestation and make the timber industry more sustainable, triggering an impressive domino effect in terms of carbon sequestration, biodiversity and climate change.SDG 17
Partnership for the Goal
The entire Cauvery Calling project is based on the key premise that only an all-inclusive Peoples’ movement will shape and sustain long-term change. To that end within India the program has forged partnerships with farmers, civil society, concerned government bodies, and local NGOs. In addition, with a view to eventually scaling this effort upto the entire tropical world, the following international partnerships have been shaped:
- UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) accreditation (2019)
- Isha Foundation was granted observer status with UNCCD at COP14 in 2019. As one of the leading NGOs globally engaged in soil and water restoration, an active collaboration is being planned
- International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) membership (2020)
- IUCN has formally extended support for the work of Isha Outreach and offered to provide technical assistance for the Cauvery Calling project. Isha Outreach was accepted as Member of IUCN in February 2020
- United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) accreditation (2020)
- Isha Foundation was granted observer status to the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) of UNEP in July 2020
6.0 Potential to be replicated globally:
Our solution can replicate across the entire tropical world, which is home to 4.7 billion people, because:
- It is a paradigm shift wherein Ecology and Economy work together, rather than being at odds with each other. In our approach, reviving Ecology is a financially rewarding process for impoverished rural societies. In addition, social benefits in the form of improved livelihood and climate resilience are achieved.
- The all-inclusive nature of our movement, that brings together farmers, civil society, governments, and NGOs creates a powerful catalytic process that is replicable.
- The movement is not constrained by availability of land to afforest, because our agroforestry model targets farmers and their privately owned agricultural lands.
Not surprisingly, Mr. Ibrahim Thiaw, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), in his Sep 2020 public telecast said, “I sincerely hope that countries around the world see the potential of this solution – as land restoration and revitalization are solutions to support our planet.”
Why Cauvery Calling
The name “Cauvery” literally means “one who brings abundance.” But this once mighty river is mighty no more.
In the last year, the suffering of farmers and their suicides in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka in the Cauvery basin, have made national headlines. The depletion of Cauvery and the distress of farmers are two manifestations of the same problem.
▵ Cauvery’s Depletion
- Cauvery has depleted over 40% in the last 70 years
- 87% of the basin’s original tree cover has been lost
- During the summer, Cauvery is unable to reach the ocean
- 70% of Cauvery basin’s soil suffers erosion
▵ Farmer Distress
- 83% of farmers in Tamil Nadu and 77% of farmers in Karnataka are in debt
- 17 districts in Tamil Nadu were drought-hit in 2019
- 15 of the last 18 years have been drought years in Karnataka
- Almost half the Cauvery basin suffers critical groundwater depletion
▵ Why Cauvery Is Dying
Cauvery, like almost all rivers in India, is forest-fed. Historically, this region was covered in forests and tree cover. The soil was constantly replenished with nutrients and organic matter by animal waste and plant litter. Organic matter allowed the soil to absorb water, and thus feed Cauvery.
▵ As Trees Disappear…
Growing human populations and inefficient agriculture practices have led to an extreme loss of tree cover and the soil is no longer sufficiently replenished. The soil no longer absorbs water efficiently and suffers erosion instead. The soil, having lost its ability to retain water, is unable to sustain Cauvery. As a result, the river is drying up. The falling water levels and dying soil are taking a devastating toll on our farmers, who suffer failed harvests and crippling debt.
▵ Saving Cauvery
To reverse this dire situation, revitalize Cauvery, rejuvenate the soil, and improve farmers’ income, Cauvery Calling will support farmers to plant 242 crore trees. It is estimated that these 242 crore trees will increase water retention in Cauvery basin by about 40%.
▵ There Is Only One Solution
The simplest way to make Cauvery flow again is to increase tree cover.
▵ Support farmers to plant 242 crore
The campaign will support farmers to plant 242 crore or 2.42 billion trees through agroforestry, covering one-third of Cauvery basin with tree cover.
Our vision will be achieved by incentivizing and motivating farmers to move from water intensive conventional crops to long term agroforestry. Agroforestry is the practice of growing fruit or timber trees along with conventional crops or on a full-fledged basis.
▵ Benefits of Increasing Tree Cover
Bringing one-third of the Cauvery Basin under tree cover will result in the triple-benefit of:
- Improving soil health by replenishing organic content in the soil
- Reviving the river and groundwater levels by increasing water retention in Cauvery basin by an estimated 40%
- Augmenting farmer income through agroforestry, proven to Increase farmers’ income 300 – 800% in 5 – 7 years
▵ How Trees Rejuvenate Soil
Every year, India loses about 5.3 billion tons of soil! But under tree cover, soil is protected because of the litter – the leaves and branches that are shed by the tree and fall to the ground. If the ground is free from litter and cover, water flows freely and can take away the soil with it.
Studies have shown that the more closely an agricultural system resembles a natural forest in its canopy structure, tree spacing and ground cover, the less chance there is of soil erosion.
▵ How Trees Revitalize Rivers
Trees help rain seep into soil because living and decaying roots make soil porous, by creating a network of well-connected, minuscule channels in the soil. Once water is absorbed, just as rainwater percolated downward into soil, water can percolate horizontally as well. This kind of underground “water flow” can feed water into streams and rivers, maintaining continuous river flow even after the rainy season is over.
▵ How Trees Increase Farmers’ Income
- Agroforestry models have shown an increase in farmers’ income across India.
- Isha has shifted 69,760 farmers to agroforestry, increasing farmers’ incomes 300-800% in 5-7 years.
- Planting varieties of trees provides valuable fuel wood, fodder, fertiliser and medicine. Timber sale can tide farmers over difficult times.
- Trees improve and sustain the productivity of the farmland, reduce pests, prevent erosion, and reduce crop failure – all of which are common to single cropping or monoculture systems.
▵ A Game-Changer for River Revitalization
Cauvery Calling is committed to resolute action on the ground. With an 83,000 sq km basin, the focus on Cauvery will offer a model for large scale implementation of this solution. It will set an example for a sustainable river revitalization process that the rest of India and tropical areas of the world can follow.
Cauvery Calling will demonstrate how ecology and economy can go together, and that reviving ecology can be a very lucrative process. Once this is demonstrated, it is inevitable that everyone will take it up.
What the Experts are saying
What the Farmers are saying
▵ Cauvery Calling will support farmers to plant 242 crore trees in Cauvery basin, across Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
▵ Soil: It will replenish the soil’s nutrients and carbon content. The increase in green cover will bring land under tree shade. This will play a pivotal role in transforming the soil quality, allowing it to absorb water and making it fertile again. This will revive the river ecology and also improve the farmer’s economic situation.
▵ River: It will increase water retention in Cauvery basin by an estimated 40%. When the land is under shade, organic material in the soil builds up. Soil will then retain water and allow it to percolate underground, which then feeds the river throughout the year.
▵ Farmer: The presence of trees provides valuable services on farmland, which means better harvests and more income for the farmer. Isha has converted 69,760 farmers to agroforestry which has increased their incomes by 300-800% in 5-7 years.
▵ Isha’s Engagement With The Environment
▵ Rally for Rivers – Supported by over 162 million people, Rally for Rivers is the world’s largest ecological movement today. Rally for Rivers provides a comprehensive solution to save India’s rivers, and is unique in its structure as a primarily economic program with a significant ecological impact.
▵ Project Greenhands – Project GreenHands, pilot project of Cauvery Calling is a grassroots ecological initiative, awarded India’s highest environmental award for taking corrective measures to increase the green cover, restore soil health and manage natural resources appropriately. PGH has enabled the planting of 35 million trees across Tamil Nadu.
15 Detailed Project Reports (DPRs) are being planned to support the revitalization of rivers across the nation.
▵ Sept 2019
In September, Sadhguru will lead a two-week bike rally. Sadhguru will ride from the Cauvery’s source at Talakaveri to Thiruvarur and conduct several large scale events at major cities, as well as hundreds of smaller events at towns and villages along the Cauvery.Jul 2019
Cauvery Calling is officially launched to plant 242 crore trees to revitalize Cauvery river and help farmers.
▵ Mar 2019
The state of Maharashtra approves the Waghari River Revitalization project in conjunction with Rally for Rivers, and sanctions 415 crores.
▵ Feb 2019
Rally for Rivers is given the National Water Award by the Government of India, for the Best Educative/Mass Awareness Effort.
▵ Aug 2018
The government of Maharashtra gives an in-principle approval for the DPR for the Waghari River project.
▵ Jul 2018
The Detailed Project Report (DPR) for the Waghari River Revitalization project in Yavatmal, Maharashtra, is officially submitted.
▵ Jun 2018
NITI Aayog makes a nationwide policy pronouncement and sends an advisory to all 29 states in India for river revitalization, recommending speedy implementation.Apr 2018
The Nadi Veeras receive intensive training in various relevant aspects, from national level experts and resource leaders.
▵ Mar 2018
United Nations invites Sadhguru to the launch of “The Decade of Action for Water”, World Water Day 2018.
▵ Feb 2018
NITI Aayog formulates a “Program for Action” to revitalize Indian rivers, which is submitted to the PMO.
▵ Dec 2017
- MoUs signed with 6 states for river revitalization. Over 100 Nadi Veeras join the team, pledging three years to the movement.
- Sadhguru is invited as Chief Guest to the Global Landscapes Forum in Bonn, Germany, to share the astonishing success of the Rally for Rivers movement with Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment.
▵ Nov 2017
Prime Minister notifies expert group under the CEO of NITI Aayog. A Rally for Rivers Board with prominent experts is formed, and has its first national meeting.Oct 2017
The Rally for Rivers campaign culminates in New Delhi. Sadhguru hands over the River Revitalization Draft Policy Recommendation to the Prime Minister.Sept 2017
Sadhguru leads the Rally for Rivers movement across India, supported by 162 million people and the united will of governments in 16 states across the political spectrum.
Award & Recognition
Rally for Rivers and Project GreenHands, pilot project of Cauvery Calling have been recognized in several national and international forums.
▵ National Water Award
FEB 2019 – Rally for Rivers, supported by over 162 million people in a span of 1 month, received the 2018 National Water Award from the Government of India under the category of Educative/Mass Awareness Efforts.
▵ Global Landscapes Forum
DEC 2017 – Sadhguru was invited as the Chief Guest at the Global Landscapes Forum, for a conversation with Erik Solheim (former Head, UN Env.) about Rally for Rivers as a model for environmental movements.
▵ Indira Gandhi Paryavaran Puraskar
JUN 2010 – In 2010, PGH was awarded India’s highest environmental award, the Indira Gandhi Paryavaran Puraskar, instituted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India, in recognition of PGH’s positive ecological impact.
▵ Guinness World Record
OCT 2006 – PGH set a Guinness World Record on 17th October, 2006 for planting the maximum number of saplings in a single day. 8,52,587 saplings were planted in 6,284 locations across 27 districts in Tamil Nadu.
▵ United Nations Decade of Action for Water
MAR 2018 United Nations invited Sadhguru for the launch of International Decade for Action: Water for Sustainable Development 2018-2028 in March 2018.
▵ NITI Aayog Sends National Advisory
JUN 2018 – On June 6, 2018, NITI Aayog made a nationwide policy pronouncement mentioning Isha Foundation, and sent a national advisory on river revitalization to all 29 states recommending that the states implement the policy.
Isha Outreach has appointed an eminent Rally for Rivers board (constituted on November 8, 2017) to oversee the Cauvery Calling project. The board comprises Mr. Ravi Singh, CEO and Secretary-General, World Wide Fund for Nature-India; Justice Arijit Pasayat, Retired Judge, Supreme Court of India; Ms. Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Chairperson and Managing Director, Biocon Ltd; Mr. Shashi Shekhar, former Secretary, Water Resources, Government of India; Dr AS Kiran Kumar, former Chairperson, Indian Space Research Organisation; Mr. Pravesh Sharma, former Secretary and MD of Small Farmers’ Agri-Business Consortium, Government of India; Mr. B Muthuraman, former Chairperson, Tata Steel, Mr. Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General, Confederation of Indian Industries.
Director General, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII)
Prior to his appointment as Director General, Mr Banerjee held several senior positions in CII in key areas including sectoral verticals of Manufacturing, Services, Agriculture and Life Sciences as well as the SME sector. He has also led CII’s policy work relating to macroeconomic policy, financial services and corporate governance.
Former chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation
A.S Kiran Kumar was instrumental in evolving a successful mechanism to steer Mangalyaan – India’s Mars Orbiter Spacecraft – towards Mars and insert it into orbit. Mr Alur Seelin Kiran Kumar, was one of ISRO’s most accomplished space scientists, with a distinguished career spanning over four decades in the satellite payload and applications domains.
Former Vice Chairman,Tata Steel
Balasubramanian Muthuraman was the Vice Chairman of Tata Steel, India’s largest steel manufacturer and Chairman Tata International. He has been awarded the Padma Bhushan by the Indian government in 2012. He was the Chairman of CII in 2011-12 and has been an executive council member of ASPA (Alloy Steel Producers Association) since 1989, and was its Chairman from 1993-95.
IAS (retired), who last served as MD of Small Farmer’s Agribusiness Consortium in the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India
A former IAS officer with deep experience of the agriculture sector, Pravesh Sharma took voluntary retirement after 34 years of service, to work more closely with the farming community.
IAS (retired) former Secretary of the Ministry of Water Resources,River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Government of India
Mr. Shashi Shekhar has initiated far-reaching reforms in the water sector during his stint in the Ministry of Water Resources. He was responsible for introducing emphasis in official policy on water budgeting, water accounting and efficient use of water by changing the cropping pattern.
Secretary General & CEO of World Wide Fund for Nature – India
As the head of WWF-India, the country’s largest conservation organization, Ravi Singh has an abiding commitment towards the conservation of nature. His conservation work covers biodiversity at the national scale, with a focus on reducing the human footprint.
Chairperson & Managing Director of Biocon
Ms. Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw is a pioneer in India’s biotechnology industry and the founder of Biocon, the country’s leading biotechnology enterprise. She has been awarded two of India’s highest civilian awards, the Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan, for her contribution to the fields of science and technology.
Retired Supreme Court Judge
A strong advocate for the conservation of the environment, Justice Pasayat regards safeguarding the environment to be a constitutional mandate. As someone who is sensitive to the relationship between man and nature, his views on commercial activities requiring engagement with nature are that they should be scientific and sustainable.
Media & Press Release
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