INDIA’S vice president Venkaiah Naidu and leading spiritual leader Sadhguru presided over a 20,000-strong audience as the Rally For Rivers came to an end in New Delhi this week.

A month-long water revival and conservation campaign that was conceived by Sadhguru, the Rally For Rivers began at Kanyakumari in south India before ending at the Himalayan foothills, covering 9,300 km across 16 states. The rally reached Delhi past midnight on Monday (2) to a reception at India Gate.

On the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, who is popular as the Father of the Nation in India, the Rally for Rivers culminated with an event at the Indira Gandhi Stadium in Delhi.

India’s vice president Venkaiah Naidu and federal minister of environment, forests and climate change, Dr Harsh Vardhan, were among leading dignitaries at the ceremony.

Sadhguru said: “When it comes to mountains, forests and rivers we must think in 500 years. We must see in the next 500 years, this is the volume of water that must flow in the rivers. For this next 25 years we have to hold course without changing. Today all the states are in concurrence with this national policy recommendation. If this is implemented aggressively, we will see some results in 25 years. There are many challenges and complexities of execution so it’s very important that we approach it strategically, not emotionally, with science as the basis.

“Today is Mahatma Gandhi’s Jayanti, 75 years after Independence. Mahatma’s acts are very simple, but precise and clearly pointed in one direction. At the Sabarmati ashram, I looked at the classic picture of Mahatma picking up a fistful of salt – this fistful of salt melted the whole great empire into surrender. So your missed call (participants were asked to ring a number to get information about the campaign) – do not underestimate it. This is not an online river – it’s a real thing. Your missed call is similar to the fistful of salt, a very small act. If it is precise and focused in one direction, we can have our rivers flowing again.”

The audience in attendance were captivated by Sadhguru’s words

Sadhguru urged the audience to take part in the initiative, adding: “You must make sure your family, friends and Facebook friends give a missed call and all the people whom you do not know in the country should give a missed call. These are the only three things you have to do now.

“The people who are in different places of responsibilities in the government are not your rulers, but your representatives. It’s our duty to tell them what we want. The draft policy recommendation that is 700 pages, made in consultation with 27 environmental scientists and in collaboration with the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, is ready and will be handed over to the government, media and the environmental authorities of the world.”

Dr Harsh Vardhan said, “We have bipartisan support for this noble cause. If the country can stand behind these issues related to environment protection and the conservation of our forest and the good quality harmony with nature, I think nothing can stop us from once again becoming a world leader in this field. We will be able to ensure that we deliver to our future generation of children the same pious environment which we inherited from our ancestors.

“Rivers have always been the bedrock of civilization and have been the lifelines, We have to preserve them. Devastation of these, spells disaster for a billion-strong population. We should not simply leave it to the government. Our contribution in this is very important.

The vice-president said: “Be part of the change you wish to have – this is what Mahatma Gandhi also said. Life has no meaning without water; we cannot sustain without water. It’s an alarming situation today. We have successfully destroyed the rivers and many are non-existent. Our population is increasing and need for water is increasing. We have 75 per cent less water per capita today since independence. If we don’t act now it may be too late.”

He added: “This revival of the rivers, rejuvenation of the rivers, it should also become a people’s movement, for our survival, for our children, for the nation.”

There were Bharatnatyam and Kalaripayattu performances by Isha Samskriti while painter Vilas Nayak and Sounds of Isha also took part in the event.

Rally for Rivers will also hold a national short film competition in association with filmmakers Shekhar Kapur, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and Prahlad Kakkar.

A committee of environmental scientists and lawmakers is drawing up a draft policy that suggests a tree cover up to a depth of one kilomtre on either side of rivers; forest trees on government land and fruit trees on farm land to ensure that moisture in the soil and the air feeds the rivers throughout the year.