Sadhguru, Founder, Isha Foundation, speaks to MetroSaga and answers questions about Cauvery Calling.
1. You have seen Cauvery when it was flowing in full fledge and its condition now…if we don’t awake now and act for it, what do you think the near future is going to be?
Sadhguru: India has had many achievements: our space scientists are sending rockets to Mars and to the Moon; massive business developments and engineering feats have happened. Among all these, the most incredible is that without any technology, just with traditional knowledge, our farmers have been feeding over one billion people. This is the greatest achievement in the country.
But unfortunately, we have pushed the farming community to the wall, where farmers do not want their children to go into farming. On one hand, we are losing the quality of the soil, and on another, farmers are not putting their next generation into farming. This means in another twenty-five years, we are definitely headed for a major food crisis.
When there is no water and food, the level of civil strife that will happen will demolish the nation in many different ways. People from those rural areas where water completely runs out are going to migrate in large numbers into urban centers. This is not far away.
With no infrastructure, they will sit on the streets. But for how long? When there is no food and water, they will break into homes. I am not some kind of a doomsayer, but in the next eight to ten years, you will see these situations unless we do something drastic right now.
Before 1960, India had many famines. Some of them took the lives of 3 million people in a matter of just 2-3 months in the summers. We will once again go back to that kind of situation if the rivers dry up and the soil depletes. If we don’t do the right things now, this land will not sustain people in the future.
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, which is nearly 83,000 square kilometers in area. This will cover one-third of the basin under shade. The amount of additional water augmented in the Cauvery basin will be around 9 to 12 trillion liters. This is more than 40% of the water that is actually flowing in the river right now.
The only way this can be done is by shifting farmers to agroforestry and tree-based agriculture. We have manifested substantial demonstration where we have converted 69,760 farmers into agroforestry and within five to seven years, their wealth increased by
three hundred to eight hundred percent. Once we show this as an implementable largescale model in the Cauvery basin, it can be replicated across the country and the tropical world. This is the time to really take action. We can reverse the whole situation if there is a
sustained effort for ten to twenty-five years.
2. What exactly happened when everyone gave a missed call for Rally for the Rivers project? How did my missed call make an impact?
Sadhguru: Rally for Rivers was purely an awareness campaign to get people’s support to change the policy of how we treat our rivers. The whole idea was for it to become a national movement. 162 million people supported the campaign in just thirty days. This is the largest number of people to support any, one movement in just thirty days, anywhere in the world.
Once there was such support from people, the government could not ignore it. We presented the 760-page Rally for Rivers recommendation to the Central government. The government responded with agility and earnestness. Then it went to the NITI Aayog. They put it through the scientific test, which took two-and-a-half months. Once they saw that it passes all that, they made it the official recommendation for all the twenty-nine states in the country.
It has never happened in the history of independent India that the government actually put a private organization’s name on a policy. But they did it with the river revitalization recommendation because they saw the magnitude of what we have done. This is very important in a democracy. If there is massive support from people, the government will take it seriously.
In the last year, we are in full hands-on action in Yavatmal in Maharashtra. Unfortunately, Yavatmal has become notorious as the suicide capital of the nation. We are working with the state government to revitalize the Waghari river there. The Maharashtra government is one government that is very proactive about this whole movement. And there is Cauvery Calling, which includes the government, the people and the farmers together.
3. Why exactly Rs. 42 for a sapling? What happens to my contribution? Who takes care of it?
Sadhguru: We need to provide farmers with the trees to plant, for which we need very large nurseries. We are looking at training 5-10,000 farmers to raise saplings. We must have the money-power to buy it. Otherwise, if he raises saplings and we cannot buy it, it will be a disaster. Once again, we will push him into a bad place. I do not want to even ask any farmer to raise any sapling unless we are able to pay him some advance, and we have the rest of the money in the bank. We must be able to pick up everything the farmers raise. We will set some standards as to what quality they should be. But if it is of that quality, we have to pick it up. There is no choice.
We ourselves want to set up about three-hundred-and-fifty large-scale nurseries. Leasing large tracts of land for these nurseries will be a major expense. Another aspect is that in most of the places where they give you land, the soil is not suitable, so you will have to
transport soil. This needs transportation and infrastructure.
We are already doing all this on a certain scale in Tamil Nadu, but this scale needs a huge push. So we are asking the public and crowdsourcing the fund – forty-two rupees for one sapling.
This forty-two rupee is not a standardized cost for every sapling. The agroforestry module involves many different species. There are some species of trees that we can do for five rupees. Every weekend, thousands of our volunteers come together and produce these at their own cost. There is another kind of timber tree which will probably need two hundred rupees.
The ground realities in different kinds of lands, in different kinds of terrains, in different kinds of social situations will dictate how we use these forty-two rupees. In some places, we may be able to produce a sapling for twenty-five rupees. In another place, it may be a hundred rupees. Calculating all this, we have arrived at this forty-two rupee number as an average.
To manage the funding, we have a very responsible board of people. Members of the board include a former Supreme Court judge, the Secretary-General and CEO of World Wide Fund for Nature in India, the Chairperson of Biocon, a former Chairperson of ISRO, the former vice-chairman of Tata Steel, the Director-General of Confederation of Indian Industry, the topmost water expert in the country, and the person who started the Farmer Producers Organization movement – he is considered the father of FPOs. The fund is going to be managed by an internationally reputed auditing firm, under the aegis of this board.
4. What can we youths do who are busy and popular on social media?
Sadhguru: 242 crore trees look like a big number, but we have billions of people on the planet. And today, we can reach every human being on the planet online and through social media – there are so many ways.
The best thing to do is everyone should start their own fundraising platforms. You must do this in a very clear, transparent way, so that nobody thinks there’s anything wrong about it. Make it very clear how many trees have been sponsored on your platform, and where you
have sent this money and how everything is happening.
If there are people who are influencers in whatever capacity, in your city, state or country, you should enroll them, because they are the people who need to do this. It is because of people’s support that they have become who they have become. They have to do what is needed for the world.
One thing that will come up is, “Why should I do something in southern India?” Cauvery is very important because it is a demonstrable model for the rest of the tropical world. We have to demonstrate somewhere. Wherever you do it, somebody will ask “Why there?” We are doing it here because geographically, this is the best place to do it for the quickest possible results.