: From a Rio Declaration to a Rishikesh Declaration : PARMARTH NIKETAN, RISHIKESH – Today, nearly 1000 journalists from across India and nations abroad pledged their commitment towards working to ensure a clean and free-flowing Ganga River in history’s first Media Social Responsibility Declaration. The Declaration urges specific immediate action from the Central and State Governments to preserve the sanctity and cleanliness of the River Ganga and its tributaries. The journalists acknowledged the crucial responsibility that the media bears in the national and international pursuit of keeping vital water sources, especially life-giving rivers, free-flowing and unpolluted.
The Declaration, which was drafted under the inspiration, guidance and leadership of HH Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, the President of Parmarth Niketan, Founder of Ganga Action Parivar and Co-Founder of Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, calls for urgent actions from all levels of Government including the passing of a National Ganga Rights Act and the strict enforcement of existing laws, which prohibit toxic chemicals and sewage from being dumped into Ganga as well as providing special, increased subsidies and incentives for organic and water-saving methods of agriculture. In addition, the Declaration calls for an eco-sensitive zone, "Green Zone" which would prohibit construction within 200 metres of the Ganga’s banks. In order to improve the health of the environment and the public, the Declaration also demands improved Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) through mass public education, as well as the provision of clean water and non-polluting toilets for all. Recommendations for subjects including sustainable development and the abatement of rural migration are also outlined in the Declaration.
The historic Declaration was presented by Pujya Swamiji to the Hon'ble Governor of Uttar Pradesh Shri B.L. Joshiji, and Respected Minister for Water Resources, Government of India, Shri Harish Rawatji,
The journalists, alongside Respected Union Minister for Water Resources, Shri Harish Rawatji, Uttar Pradesh Governor, HE Shri B.L. Joshiji, HH Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji and other respected saints and dignitaries, spontaneously took to their feet and raised their hands in a dramatic pledge of support for the historic Declaration.
The Declaration comes in the wake of a tragic monsoon season for Uttarakhand that saw the deaths and displacement of thousands. Experts state that the enormous loss of life and property was largely due to unsustainable development within the Ganga River Basin’s Himalayan region. Earlier in the year, a study also found that people living near some sections of the Ganga are among the most prone in the nation towards contracting certain cancers, due to the grave and ceaseless dumping of toxic chemicals.
Every day, billions of litres of sewage and toxic chemicals are discharged into the Ganga, a river responsible for maintaining the lives and livelihoods of some 450 million men, women and children. The river is also obstructed and diverted to the point in which some sections completely disappear during much of the year.
Said HH Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, “There is a lot of talk about Corporate Social Responsibility. This is wonderful, but we also have Media Social Responsibility – the great, crucial role of the media. In signing history’s first Media Social Responsibility Declaration in support of Mother Ganga, nearly 1,000 journalists stood proudly together to declare, if Ganga dies, India dies. If Ganga thrives, India thrives. Through their courageous commitments, they are taking on a new form of responsibility as journalists, to bring not only information but also inspiration, and realizing that the power of change can be found in their voices and pens.”
Said HE Governor Shri BL Joshiji: "Everyone and every state needs to take responsibility for the condition of Ganga. Ganga flows through five states. Each one should be responsible for the condition of the river as She flows out of that state. It is the crucial responsibility of each State to ensure that Ganga flows clear and clean from their state into the next. I am so impressed to see Pujya Swami Chidanandji's efforts and work. I have been watching him for so many years and I am so glad the way he has taken up this cause. Everyone should follow in his footsteps."
Said Shri Harish Rawatji: "Water is life. Rivers have sustained us for millennia. All of our civilizations have been built around rivers. It is water, and that too in rivers, which is life for cultures all around the world, including of course our own. Now it is time for us to work to sustain the rivers which have sustained us. The Government of course has its own responsibility and it is working to fulfill that responsibility. However, everyone in all walks of life needs to come forward together to do their part."
Media Social Responsibility "Rishikesh Declaration"
A Commitment towards a Clean and Free-Flowing River Ganga
19-21 October 2013
Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India
As the members of Indian Federation of Working Journalists and Confederation of Asian Journalist Unions, we acknowledge the crucial responsibility that we bear in the national and international pursuit of keeping our vital water sources, especially our life-giving rivers, free-flowing and unpolluted.
On the occasion of the National Symposium of Media’s Role in maintaining a clean Ganga River, held in Parmarth Niketan (Rishikesh) from the 19-21st October, 2013 we affirm that the following actions must be taken immediately to preserve and protect the River Ganga and Her tributaries. We urge the Central and State Governments to take necessary, appropriate and immediate action as outlined below:
The declaration of a National Ganga Rights Act through Parliamentary legislation within six months.
The strict enforcement of current environmental legislation, such as the Water Act of 1974 and the Environmental Act of 1986, including:
Complete segregation of all sewage from all river water
The strict enforcement and ban of all toxic industrial effluent, agricultural chemical and pesticide discharge and run-off into rivers.
The enactment of strict penalties, as described by law, against polluters found to be in repeat violation of any environmental Acts.
The assurance of an ecologically-sound flow of the Ganga and its tributaries by enabling at least 50% of its waters to flow within its natural riverbed throughout the year.
The enactment of an enforceable mandate to maintain 200 meters on both sides of the Ganga River and its tributaries, including the Yamuna River, as an “Eco-Sensitive Zone”/ "Green Zone" for new construction.
The granting of special and increased incentives for water-saving and organic farming should be instituted by the Central and State Government, particularly for farmers in the Ganga River Basin, along with the provision of intensive public education outreach.
The creation and implementation of mass public awareness programmes that bring all stakeholders together and empowering them to maintain a clean and free-flowing River Ganga and tributaries.
The development and implementation of organic, sustainable development models along both sides of the Ganga River, which can promote eco-tourism, protect the river’s natural eco-system, provide employment and jobs to locals, generate revenue for the state and prevent migration from rural areas.
The proactive implementation of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programmes throughout the Ganga River Basin, which must include wide-spread public education campaigns alongside the provision of clean water and ecologically-safe, non-polluting toilets for all, in order to protect lives and the environment.
We recognize the crucial role of the media in influencing public opinion and priorities. We pledge to Go GREEN by dedicating ourselves to spreading the importance of environmental protection and to work for the above goals with our 4T’s: our Time, Talent, Technology, and Tenacity.