Villagers of 278 villages in the 22 Grama Panchayats in Nelamangala taluk in Karnataka came together at the Kumudavathi Utsava and Farmers Convention at Mahimapura village today.
The inaugural address was delivered by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the Founder of the Art of Living, who, emphasizing on the importance of river rejuvenation, said , "Right from conception we are in water on our death our ashes return to water. Water is vital for life,to conserve it and keep it clean all the villagers who have gathered here should take responsibility for the same.."
The Art of Living hosted the Kumudavati Utsava and the Farmers' Convention to bring togethethe on a single platform farmers, Government Departments and the general public to deliberate and interact on the Kumudavathi River Rejuvenation Project, initiated by the Art of Living's social-service wing, Volunteer for a Better India, a platform for citizens to address crucial social issues through volunteering to give one hour to the nation through any activity.
Among other dignitaries who attended were Shri Malaya Shanthamuni Deshikendra Shivacharya,Melana Gavi Mutt, Mr. Shivaraj Thangadgi, Minister for Minor Irrigation, Mr. E. Krishnappa, Member of Legislative Council, Dr. Srinivasamurthy, MLA, Nelamangala, Mr. Lalu Khan, President, Jamiya Masjid Sunny Arabica Madrasi, and other heads of Mutts, gram panchayats, etc.
Mr. Shivaraj Thangadgi, who also spoke on the occassion, said he would undertake the responsibility to get the 61 tanks that come under the Kumudavti basin desilted.
The Kumudavati River Rejuvenation Project, with a three-year time-frame, aims to restore water supply to over 278 villages in the River basin and to the city's main reservoir, the Tippagondanahalli reservoir.
The Farmers Convention was an interactive platform, presided over by eminent environmentalist, Dr. Yellappa Reddy, where farmers learnt about the Kumudavathi Project activities, and best agricultural practices, and had experts address their livelihood issues and concerns. Residents of 21 villages shared their experiences, and the benefits they had derived from the Project to inspire the rest of the residents of the taluk to take ownership of this vital, life-enhancing Project.
Says Chidanand Nagaraj, a Project Manager with Robert Bosch in Bangalore, who has been volunteering his weekends since one and a half years: "The project is one of the most holistic I have seen. It is not just about water-rejuvenation but about resuscitating the entire rural economy in this belt."
Asked how he switches avatars between IT Manager and volunteer, "Village or city, the water-shortage is hitting us," he stresses. "Instead of complaining, a few hundred of us are taking charge of the future of many thousands. The city-based volunteers, in addition, enjoy village life!" CSR is not missing, either. Weekdays, he and his team liaise to form and involve teams from Corporates in Bangalore.
Over 2,000 volunteers - local farmers, village youth, and committed citizens - have de-silted the Kumudavathi river-bed, and step-wells, lakes, ponds and water-holes for grazing animals, built boulder checks, planted 6000 saplings of ecologically-viable species of trees, and trained Panchayat officers. Recharge-wells have been constructed, some of them under the MNREGA scheme. The Minor Irrigation and Water Resources Department has offered its co-operation. The volunteers have been working in villages, in and around the river basin, spearheaded by geological scientist Lingaraju Yale and his team.
Every Sunday, dozens of enthusiastic volunteers gather in the Sivaganga hills region to plant trees along the course of the river.