We started harvesting water and planting trees at Kanha Shanti Vanam toward the end of 2015. We didn’t have a lot of water, and so we weren’t doing very well until 2018, when we really learned how to store and preserve water. That’s when things got exciting.
We started building soak pits across Kanha. At the bottom of these pits, we put about two feet of charcoal. Without the charcoal, the water rushing into the soak pits can remain dirty, and the underground water quality spoiled. With charcoal added, the water that percolates to the bottom of these pits is relatively pure.
Charcoal is a magical thing. Most reverse osmosis (RO) filters use charcoal. Even the most expensive cars today – Mercedes, BMWs, Audis – use charcoal filters. Charcoal is also used in medicines because it absorbs everything, including toxins and pollutants. Ten grams of charcoal has the surface area of one acre of land, or 43,560 square feet – that’s a huge amount of exposed area that can be utilized to absorb pollutants.
Once a pit is full, water flows into the next pit, and then into the next, and so on. All around these pits, there are plants and trees that absorb some of this water. Ultimately, the water end ups in ponds, and all of the six or seven ponds we have at Kanha are interconnected.
You will be surprised to see some canals here filling with water from the outside roads, like the main road that connects us with the next village. The village water runs everywhere, undirected, so we have directed it into a canal. Across India, highways pass through villages. Those highways are full of water, especially during the monsoons. That water can benefit farmers if every farmer can build a small canal, starting at the highway, creating as many pits as they would like to have along the canal. They can then put charcoal in those pits to purify the water. To obtain charcoal, they need to burn their crop waste to 10%, and leave it in those pits. The farmers can use this pure water for themselves and their cattle.
Another way to harvest water is to collect it from mountainsides during the monsoon rains. In southern India, the monsoons comes from the West, and so when we compare Tamil Nadu and Kerala, Kerala is much greener. In Kerala, you feel you’re really in “God’s Own Country.” It rains so much more as the clouds dump their rains on the West side of the mountains, the downside being flood problems and soil erosion. Fertile soil is washed away and ultimately ends up in the sea. In contrast, the East side of the mountains receive very little rainfall.
I might have a solution. It’s not magic, but both states could benefit from it. We could create a water canal, with the top on the Kerala side, and the bottom on the Tamil Nadu side. At the base of the canal, we can create ponds – as many ponds as we need.
We use rain guns at Kanha to help our rainforest survive during the hottest months of March, April, and May. These guns don’t need to be used a lot. Five minutes, three times a week, and they maintain our forests really well. The solutions are simple.
Until 1970, India had sufficient water. After the ’70s, the water tables started falling because free electricity meant people pumped water out of the ground indiscriminately. It hasn’t changed much since then. Now we need to find other ways to motivate people to get pure water for themselves, for their herds, and for their crops – water that is not from the ground.
We need to let people know that the more they dig water from the ground, the more salts will come, and the more their soil will become saline and less productive. They will have to put more and more fertilizer. When the water is purer, everyone can survive well and with better crops.
This issue is more about the role of a social and civil society, rather than water awareness. Take water pollution. What is the point of storing water if it’s going to be polluted? We are also worried about soil problems, but the main problem to be addressed is how to put a stop to the problem of water pollution.
Why would an industrialist discharge waste into public waters? We all know it is greed – more money, more profit, ignorance. The same is true for air pollution. But what is behind this greed and ignorance? Yoga says all our activities are controlled by our mind. If we are not able to regulate our heart and mind, we are a burden on this planet.
Our planet is victim to mad people who are ruling countries and have power in their hands in the form of money. Greed for gains has made them sacrifice the moral divine laws. They sacrifice all that is good. It is not that they don’t have a heart: they have a heart, but greed takes over. And all of us pay the price. By disregarding this creation, the nature that we see, we are disregarding the creator. And eventually, we will all pay the price for remaining witnesses. We have to take these matters into our hands.
Recently, I was with the Minister for Water in Jabalpur, and we were
talking about water problems.
He loves the Narmada River, and he said, “Daaji, the problem is created by the ashrams and temple people. Wherever I go, they dump their waste into the river.”
I said, “You are a Minister, why don’t you do something?”
He had no answer for that, because he also knows there are repercussions, so I offered him a solution.
When I was running a chain of pharmacies in New York City, if a dog relieved itself on the pavement outside your store or somebody threw a Pepsi can, you were not responsible for it. But if a sanitation inspector saw that your pavement was not clean, he would give you a fine of a $100, no arguments. He would come with a camera, take a photo, and show you, saying, “This is in front of your store. It is your pavement. You are responsible for cleaning it.”
So, I told the Minister, “Let’s do something like this,” but unfortunately, the more laws we create, the more avenues we create for corruption. That is the danger we are facing in our country: more laws, more inspectors; more inspectors earning more money from law-breaking citizens.
So, unless the mind and the heart are regulated, there is no solution. The inspiration must come from within that, “I must do something about my surroundings.” We are offering solutions for every little thing: for air pollution, one solution; for the water problem, another solution; but let’s go to the root of it. If we can solve the root problem, we can prevent many problems, and we can also solve many problems.
Education begins very early. Let children learn all these things. Teach them how to segregate waste, how to process waste, and how to preserve water. I am reminded of a video of an “aware” monkey. Some of you might have seen it. In a village there was a running tap and nobody turned it off. But the monkey did!
Let’s see what we can do together. We can bring a lot of farmers, a lot of villagers, a lot of village heads, to start with in our ashrams across India. Many such locations can be made use of. They are not only for yoga and meditation, but also for many social activities that can uplift our nation and our planet.