COP26 (31st Oct-12th Nov) is a pivotal moment in the fight against climate change, with current emissions still way above sustainable levels. Current statistics, from over 100 countries, see a 16% increase in emissions, far from the 45% cut needed.
- But hope is not lost – Cauvery Calling: the ground-breaking project by Isha Foundation’s Rally for Rivers aims to contribute 8-12% of India’s carbon sequestration targets for 2030 (signed at COP 21).
- A unique project marrying economy and ecology – Cauvery Calling aims to empower 5.2 million farmers to transition to tree based farming. In doing so, the project will plant 2.42 billion trees – increasing the river’s water retention by 40% over 12 years. So far, 107,000 farmers have shifted to agroforestry and 52 million trees have been planted.
Tropical rivers are dying
Growing human populations and inefficient agricultural practices have resulted in a massive loss of trees across the tropical world. This has degraded the soil to the point that it no longer absorbs water efficiently, leaving rivers unsustained.
This is an urgent crisis – tropical rivers are vital lifelines for global agriculture, and over 4.7 billion people across the tropical belt.
Cauvery, a major river in southern India that sustains 84 million lives, has depleted by 40% in the last 70 years. The river’s falling water levels and dying soil are taking a devastating toll on farmers, who suffer failed harvests and crippling debt. The region has seen over 47,000 farmer suicides in the last 15 years alone.
“If the current trends continue, in 20 years about 60% of all India’s aquifers will be in a critical condition” says a World Bank report.
Over 60-80 million hectares of cleared forest lands and wastelands across India are now unable to retain rainwater, which would have ensured the recharging of groundwater and conservation of biodiversity in the river’s basin.
When rainfall fell by 40-70% in 2016, the Cauvery went dry at its source. In the summer of 2017, the state of Tamil Nadu suffered its worst drought in 140 years.
How to save India’s rivers
Cauvery Calling is a game-changer for tropical rivers, marrying economy and ecology to create a sustainable model for river revitalisation.
The project supports local South Indian farmers in making the transition to tree based farming, or agroforestry. Agroforestry is the practice of growing fruit or timber trees along with conventional crops or on a full-fledged basis. The Cauvery has lost 87% of its tree cover since the mid-20th century. Together, farmers and Isha volunteers will plant 2.42 billion trees to increase the river’s water retention by 40% over 12 years.
By planting high-value trees on a section of their farmland, farmers are not only helping to avert environmental disaster but will also benefit from a lucrative and consistent source of income. The farmers can expect their incomes to rise by 3-8 times, which has already happened for many farmers who have taken up the scheme.
Tree planting in the tropics – the need of the hour
Studies repeatedly show that not all trees are equal when it comes to capturing carbon from the atmosphere. The best place to plant new trees is the tropics. Planting trees in snowy regions near the poles is likely to cause net warming, while planting them in temperate climates – like that of the UK, much of Europe and parts of the US – may have no net effect on climate.
Cauvery is calling – it’s vital that the world takes notice.
Isha Foundation has been accredited by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), being accepted to its Convention of Parties (COP) at New Delhi in Sept 2019. In July 2020, Isha Foundation was accredited to the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) for its outreach efforts.
The Isha Foundation is a global, non profit, volunteer run organisation founded by Sadhguru. The foundation is dedicated to raising human consciousness, and fostering global harmony through individual transformation. Sadhguru’s work has touched the lives of millions worldwide through his educational, socio-environmental outreach projects and transformational yoga programmes.
Discovery Channel Documentary on Cauvery Calling: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lbF96KmpMPw&feature=youtu.be
Rally For Rivers Draft Policy Recommendation: https://cdn.isha.ws/public/docs/pdir/RFR_RevitalizationOfRiversInIndia-Web.pdf
Info about the Indian government’s Programme for Action to revitalize rivers: