The urgent issue of water scarcity and sustainable water management took centre-stage at the C20 Conclave hosted by The Satsang Foundation in Pune, India.
The landmark event brought together global leaders from civil society, policy making, academia, and industry to collaborate and find innovative solutions for creating a sustainable water future. A short video summary of the event can be viewed in the video.
With a special interest in water and tree plantation, The Satsang Foundation spearheaded the event as a landmark moment for its work in river revivals and water management.
The inaugural took place not just with the traditional lamp-lighting but also with a confluence of water from 12 major rivers and water bodies being poured together, symbolically bringing in different streams of knowledge for a common purpose.
Sri M set the tone by emphasising the centrality of water as “the bloodstream of human civilisation”, and the need to bring water-related activities to the mainstream.
The Conclave was structured with a mix of content-rich strategic and technical presentations by highly experienced speakers from the field globally, as well as a participative workshop format. The Conclave covered the rejuvenation of river systems, comprehensive restoration of water bodies, groundwater recharge, and the availability of drinking water. Panels also discussed disaster mitigation from climate extremes such as droughts and floods, and the role of institutions in taking necessary actions. Many new ideas were put forward, including radical suggestions such as giving politicians electoral tickets only if they have implemented rainwater harvesting or such water rejuvenation projects for the benefit of citizens.
Dr. Rajendra Singh, Indian environmentalist and water conservationist, widely known as the “Waterman of India”, said, “The rivers are sick with heart disease, and people are trying to work on rivers aesthetically like a beauty parlour or dental work. This is not going to help get back the quality of water that we need.”
Participants shared their experiences and insights, and there was great enthusiasm for finding feasible solutions to the problem of water scarcity. The conclave enabled out-of-the-box thinking, and great ideas were tabled to be considered by G20 member nations. The solutions discussed at the conclave will serve as the base for policies implemented by governments worldwide.
The session topics were wide-ranging, including traditional knowledge on river flows and its applications in river rejuvenation, community-centric engineering of water infrastructure, water conservation measures, afforestation and greening interventions flood mitigation and drought management, mass-participation of river basin population from origin to confluence in river rejuvenation, watershed management, wetland management, catchment-area treatment and ecological restoration measures, technology innovations in river basin management, community and youth participation in river basin management, policies, regulations and guidelines for prevention and mitigation of flood and related disasters, addressing the Commodification of the Water Commons, riverine ecosystems and ecosystem services, and sustainable and innovative financing solutions for river rejuvenation (including flagship government schemes, the role of philanthropic capital and Corporate Social Responsibility, catalysing broadbased community financial participation in the revival of rivers, and risk transfer mechanisms).
One message was crystal clear throughout the Conclave, that water is not a commodity but a living entity, and it is our responsibility to keep it healthy. The campaign for this cause may takes years or decades, but we need to inculcate perseverance and dedication.
The Conclave speakers included Dr. Indira Khurana (Chairman – Indian Himalayan River Basin Council), Ms. Rutendo Ngara (Founding Director – Ancient Wisdom Foundation, South Africa), Mr. Sandeep Sathyamoorthy (Black & Veatch, USA), Mr. Farhad Contractor, (Director – Sambhaav Trust, India), Mr. Michael Furniss (Hydrologist – Coalition for Climate and Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, USA), Dr. Chandrashekhar Biradar, Country Director-The Center for International Forestry Research and World Agroforestry (CIFOR-ICRAF) & Chief of Party-Trees Outside Forests in India (TOFI), Mr. Avinash Surve (Executive Director, Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation, India), Dr. Rana Pratap Singh (Professor at Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University, India), Mr. Manu Bhatnagar (Principal Director, Natural Heritage Division, INTACH, India), Mr. Prashant Hedao (Consultant – WHO GIS Centre for Health, USA), Mr. Sanjay Kashyap (Centre for Water Peace, India), Dr. Michal Kravcik (Enviromentalist, Chairman – People & Water, Slovakia), Dr. Vinod Tare (Department of Civil Engineering – Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur, India), Mr. Vinod Bodhankar (Convenor, India Peninsular River Basin Council), Mr. Satyanarayan Bolisetti (Social Activist, India), Prof. Dr. Ulrike Gayh (School of Engineering and Architecture, SRH University Heidelberg, Germany), Mr. Balaji Singh Chowhan (Advisor on South Asia Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience), Mr. Josantony Joseph (Trainer in Human Rights, Writer, Researcher, India), Dr. Gurudas Nulkar (Director – Sustainability Institute, Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economy, India), Mr. Ujjwal Chavan (Wari Foundation, India), Mr. G. Asok Kumar (Director General, Namami Gange), Mr. Narendra Chugh (President – Maharashtra Jalbiradari, India), Mr. Mahendra Mahajan (Kasalganga Foundation, India and Mr. Amit Patjoshi (CEO, Palladium India).
The C20 Conclave was a significant step in creating a common broad platform to make significant impact at the field level and at the policy level, to achieve a common understanding the severity of the water crisis and to work on means to conserve this irreplaceable resource in a holistic, multidisciplinary manner.
To know more about the Satsang Jal Seva Sangatan initiatives, click here