National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) has taken the webinar series ‘Igniting Young Minds: Rejuvenating Rivers’ global. The 13th edition of the webinar series, now titled, ‘Igniting Young Minds: A Global Campaign’ was virtually organised on 8th July 2023 in collaboration with APAC News Network, with the objective of invoking participation from ‘Young Water Sustainers to Build Tomorrow’s Global Sustainability Leaders’. The theme of the webinar was Water Conservation. In this special session, the urgent need for rainwater conservation, collaboration with universities, and community engagement to ensure sustainable water management and river rejuvenation were discussed.
Mr. G. Asok Kumar, Director General, NMCG chaired the webinar. The panelists included Mr. B.S Yadav, Chancellor, IES University, Dr. Narayana Shenoy S, Vice Chancellor, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Dr. Neena Singh Zutshi, Professor and Dean Academics, World University of Design, and Mr. Arpan Stephen, Kingdom of Bahrain, E-learning Expert, Arabian Gulf University.
Delivering the keynote address, DG, NMCG highlighted the critical need for intensified efforts in water conservation and river rejuvenation. He spoke about the imperative role of public participation, calling for a collective movement and citizen responsibility to ensure sustainability and respect for water resources. He emphasized the effective management of water resources to make use of the spatial and temporal variation in rainfall in the country. “The scope of Namami Gange extends to River Ganga and its tributaries and the impact of the work done in the Ganga Basin is manifesting in the form of significant improvement in water quality and biodiversity exemplified by the increased sightings of aquatic species like Gangetic Dolphins, Otters etc.,” He further added, “The recognition of NMCG’s efforts by the United Nations further reinforces its unique position and commitment to water conservation. The positive recognition received from international stakeholders’ underscores Namami Gange’s impact. The participation of more than 20 crore people in the Kumbh Mela 2019, much more than anticipated, signifies an increasing awareness and engagement in river rejuvenation efforts in the country.”
He said that the significance of the 5 Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Recharge and Respect – is pivotal to combat water scarcity, particularly the agriculture sector, where water use efficiency remains a primary concern. He shed light on the excessive use of groundwater by farmers, which not only requires significant energy for pumping, but also demands more efficient irrigation methods. He said that saving water should be incorporated into all aspects of life, encouraging the reuse of water, such as utilizing rejected water from RO systems for washing vegetables, fruits, and plants. Additionally, treated water from sewage treatment plants (STPs) can be used for irrigation and other purposes, reducing the extraction of water from other sources. He noted that by adopting a circular economy of water, where water is no longer discarded but instead recovered and reused, the world can achieve sustainable water management.
He focused on the need to educate younger generations, raising awareness among students and instill a sense of responsibility to promote sustainable water usage practices. He also highlighted the importance of reusing sewage water, focusing on the technical aspects of safe sewage disposal. “Improper sewage disposal can lead to the contamination of fresh water sources, posing risks to public health. NMCG actively engages in the process of treating sewage water through the establishment of Nirmal Jal Kendras, ensuring the safe disposal of sewage water and its utilization for non-potable purposes”, he said.
DG, NMCG underscored the need to preserve rainwater and discussed the “Catch the Rain” campaign, which encourages decentralized storage of rainwater. The campaign urges communities to harvest rainwater within their localities, contributing in elevating water table levels and a reduction in energy-intensive water pumping. “Preserving rainwater is instrumental in conserving water for the summer season”. Furthermore, he noted the significance of rainwater conservation for students, as it directly influences future of forthcoming generations. “It is imperative to instill this knowledge in students, fostering a sense of responsibility and promoting mindful water usage practices”, he said.
He acknowledged the significant role that universities can play in the conservation and rejuvenation of rivers and urged universities to actively support and collaborate in the revitalization of rivers.
Mr. B.S Yadav, Chancellor of IES University, spoke about the role of the Ganga River as the lifeline of the country and encouraged the need for awareness campaigns within university spaces to promote the optimal use and conservation of water resources. He also appreciated the Jal Jeevan Mission, recognizing it as a remarkable initiative in addressing the need for clean water. Additionally, he highlighted Unnat Bharat Abhiyan launched by the Government of India, wherein 10 nearby villages are to be adopted for community development. Mr. Yadav expressed his enthusiasm and readiness to support these initiatives, acknowledging water as a basic necessity and emphasizing the significant expenditure required for obtaining clean water. He commended the efforts of the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) in raising awareness and implementing the world’s largest campaign for rejuvenating rivers and eliminating pollution.
Dr. Narayana Shenoy S, highlighted the need for water conservation and the preservation of rivers. Citing statistics, he noted that India is blessed with a higher density of rivers and receives abundant rainfall. Dr. Shenoy said that the Ganga river flows through 11 states of the country, covering nearly 30 percent of the population and 40 percent of agricultural land. “Manipal Academy of Higher Education is actively engaged in river rejuvenation efforts, initiating programs like the Swarna Aradhana Project, wherein the river is seen as a living natural resource that gives a holistic perspective to the younger generation,” Dr. Shenoy noted, adding, “Even small steps can create a significant impact by contributing to the larger cause of protecting water resources and ensuring a sustainable future.”
Dr. Neena Singh Zutshi discussed the university’s collaboration with the NMCG in the Universities Connect Program. Addressing the pressing global challenge of climate change and its immediate impact on society, Dr. Zutshi underscored the importance of water as a living entity and the urgent need for youth engagement in effectively addressing this challenge. She said that the collaboration aims to integrate water conservation principles into the university’s curriculum, with the School of Architecture and Planning focusing on on-campus conservation efforts. She said that the School of Communication is looking to raise awareness through impactful videos, while the School of Fashion is prioritizing sustainable practices. Furthermore, she noted that the School of Performing Arts aims to inspire students through performances promoting water conservation. She said that curriculum design across disciplines should address water-related issues and concluded her address by stressing on the importance of leveraging technology and AI to address the critical water problem.
Mr. Arpan Stephen, an esteemed e-learning Expert from the Arabian Gulf University, shared his insights on the water-related challenges faced in Bahrain, including the absence of natural rivers or lakes and heavy reliance on converting seawater into potable water. He emphasized the pressing issue of groundwater depletion, which is often overlooked within the education sector, stressing the need for its integration into the curriculum. Mr. Stephen underscored the urgency of addressing the scarcity of water resources, calling for widespread acceptance of the issue. He stressed that the most effective approach is to educate young people starting from the K12 level. By providing in-depth knowledge and fostering a focus on water conservation throughout their educational journey, students could be encouraged to prioritize rather than solely pursuing professional degrees. Mr. Stephen’s advocated aligning of water conservation education with the growing recognition of the need to nurture environmentally conscious citizens and cultivate sustainable practices within India’s education system.