Nagnadhi River Rejuvenation: A Team Effort of 44000 Rural Women Makes it Happen

By: Art of Living-Social Projects on 10th June 2023

Rivers are essential to support life on our planet. All around the globe, no matter the region, rivers are vital for various household and agricultural purposes to humans. They give back to flora and fauna in their own way. India is no exception when it comes to the state of rivers. The rivers had to pay the cost of rapid development, climate change, and an increase in demand for water, and the country is now facing its worst water crisis in the past four decades. At least 54 percent of the sub-continent has turned into a water-stressed dust bowl with many rivers rapidly drying up. The dire state of rivers in our country caught our attention at The Art of Living to improve the current condition and secure the sources of the nation's water needs.

Making Rivers Flow Smoothly

The River Rejuvenation Project at The Art of Living began in 2013, with thousands of dedicated volunteers working to restore the drying and dying rivers. With a mission to bring the rivers back and keep them free-flowing, thereby solving the water crisis in India and creating a positive impact on climate change, we set on the journey of finding a long-lasting solution. Steadily since then, the project has grown manifold, with over 70 rivers and streams being rejuvenated, across five states nationwide. Around 59,000 kilometres of the area has been influenced across more than 19,000+ villages, and 65000+ structures built benefitting 3.45 crore people. The scale of the project suggests the amount of hard work, effort, and manpower that has gone into it for so long now.

One such major river, which had dried up in the past twenty years, is the Nagnadhi River in the Vellore district of Tamil Nadu. A seasonal river that once flowed in all its grandeur was on the brink of extinction because of the over-exploitation and lack of attention to its state. Inspired by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, a team of volunteers and technical experts started

on their journey to implement the Nagnadhi River Rejuvenation Project under The Art of Living. It was a long journey of instilling hope and faith that began with the capacity building of rural women, who were ready to take the challenge in order to improve their basic livilihood. Getting the locals to come together as a community by teaching the practice of yoga, pranayama, and Sudarshan Kriya in their routines helped give them the confidence to work for the rejuvenation of the Nagnadhi river basin.

As a first step, we had to work on the increase in groundwater level, and for this, the construction of recharge wells and boulder check dams was required. With the involvement of MGNREGA, which is Govt of India program that guarantees wage employment to rural unskilled labor, the number of women volunteers increased from around 20,000 to 44,000. These rural women worked tirelessly with The Art of Living to dig wells, build and place cement rings, and lay heavy stones to achieve an uphill task. 5,462 recharge wells and 1084 boulder check dams were constructed in the Kaniyambadi block in the Vellore district. This increased the groundwater from one meter to eight meters, bringing the Nagnadhi River back to life.

A lot of hard work has been consistently put in, and to date, 366 square kilometres of the catchment area of the Nagnadhi River has been revived successfully. 40% of the catchment area lies in Tiruvannamalai district, while 60% lies in the Vellore district. The river flows through 21 gram-panchayats, originating in Amirthi near Jawadhu Hills in Vellore and stretching approximately 48 kilometres before finally uniting with the Cheyyar River. Reviving such a lengthy river is a challenging task; not only has it started flowing in its full glory now, but the seasonal river has been flowing perennially for more than 600 days straight since the revival.

It was a moment of pride for these women & all volunteers in Tamil Nadu when our Honourable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, praised their efforts and teamwork in order to revive the Nagnadhi river, for the 3rd time in his recent 100th episode of 'Mann ki Baat'.

Shri. Chandrashekhar Kuppan, Director of The Art of Living River Rejuvenation Projects, has been awarded and honoured with the Ponnadai (Golden Shawl) for the efforts of reviving the Naganadhi and other rivers. It was truly a moment of appreciation and gratitude.

The work has been recognized and appreciated by the local communities in Vellore and surrounding regions; even the District Collector and Chairman of the District Rural Development Agency of Vellore, Shri S.A. Raman, praised the successful implementation of the Nagnadhi River Rejuvenation Project. The success of this initiative is an example of the faith and dedication of all the volunteers associated with The Art of Living, being rewarded with their vision turning into a reality.

The Art of Living has been a part of the revival of over 70 rivers across the country till now and is contributing significantly towards India's water security. It gives a sense of satisfaction to work for such a noble cause of water scarcity solution and give back to society. The vision of Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is far-fetched and inspires us as a team to keep moving forward, giving direction to our lives and meaning to the life of others