A watchmaker becomes
a river rescuer

As a former wrist watch assembler, Nagraj Gangolli ensured that time pieces ran perfectly on time. And in good time, Nagraj found his true calling to revive the dying Vedavathi - an act that would change the fate of lakhs of people in the Indian state of Karnataka.

It was in 2011 that Nagraj, an Art of Living teacher, began work on a small project in Lakshmipura village in his home district. With his persistent efforts, the groundwater rose from 350 feet to 80 feet, benefiting around 100 farmer families. Nagraj got a new-found calling - to rejuvenate water sources.

While executing this project, Nagraj learned that the challenge of water scarcity can be resolved on a permanent and sustainable basis by using a scientific approach. He realized that even with poor monsoons, the water scarcity issue can be resolved.

Three years later, Nagraj implemented these learnings of sustainable long-term water harvesting techniques when he started working on the Vedavathi basin project under the River Rejuvenation Project of The Art of Living.

He ran from pillar to post for nearly two years and faced many shut doors and well meant, but discouraging advice. For Nagraj, giving up was never an option. Nagraj found out about the Government of India’s MGNREGA scheme (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee) that is a legislative mandate for the government to fund important and locally relevant projects with infrastructural needs. The scheme also provides employment guarantee to the locals. In February 2014, the hard work paid-off for the Vedavathi basin project with results coming up by 2015. Even with nearly a third of the regular monsoon rains received that year, the groundwater level rose from 700-1200 feet to 100-150 feet in the parts where the project was implemented. 

Our work so far

  • 6​,​786 recharge structures built while 1,021 are in progress and 12,526 are in the pipeline

  • 2​,​000 people employed generating 1​,​84​,​000 man-days of work

  • Survey of satellite maps with markings of the original trail of the river/stream​​

  • Imparted skill building and capacity training to local communities​

Our goal

  • 21,800 recharge structures of boulder checks, recharge wells, water ponds

  • 5,447 sq km of area which will cover a comprehensive watershed management program

  • 2,90,795 man-days of work through the MGNREGA program

  • 1.5 million people to benefit from this project


The way forward

Today, Nagraj has expanded his vision to 20 districts in the state, including Kodugu, Mysore and Hassan, that fall on the path of the disputed Cauvery River, a long outstanding pain-point for the people of two of the biggest southern states in India -- Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.  This magnum opus for the small town watchmaker is only getting bigger: Nagraj estimates that through the work on the river rejuvenation projects, 8.6 lakh families from the government index of below poverty line would be lifted above. The former watchmaker has clearly not lost touch with his precision and timing.

The Vedavathi River rejuvenation project is the first of the many river rejuvenation projects run by The Art of Living, under the guidance of Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

The rejuvenation work for 30 rivers across 4 states is currently on, benefitting 3,000 villages.

Story credit: The Art of Living Bureau of Communication