Reviving India's Rivers and Groundwater Levels: Inspiring change through technical expertise and lifelong commitment

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

India's agricultural and domestic needs rely primarily on groundwater, accounting for 80% of the requirements, while only 20% is fulfilled by rain and water bodies such as rivers and lakes. With a sense of urgency, a committed team of The Art of Living experts has undertaken a vital mission to rejuvenate India's rivers and combat the alarming decline in groundwater levels.

Inspired by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's vision, highly skilled technical experts from The Art of Living family took up the challenge to address the groundwater crisis and revive India's dying rivers. Volunteers, known as Jal Sevaks, rallied alongside the experts, collectively striving to make India a better place to live. With meticulous planning, the team identified operation sites across India and commenced rainwater harvesting with modern technology implementation.

The team identified irregular rains, climate-related factors, and the overexploitation of water resources as significant causes of the crisis. Their comprehensive approach aimed to restore the hydrological cycle and rejuvenate water bodies, involving environmental scientists, geologists, hydro-geologists, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) experts. The team devised a multi-pronged strategy to maximise water conservation by leveraging their technical expertise.

The team constructed improvised structures across open land expanses to restore surface water bodies. These structures enhanced rainwater percolation through soil strata, replenishing groundwater aquifers. Local communities were actively engaged through capacity building and training programs, fostering a sense of ownership and long-term sustainability. Afforestation and soil conservation measures were implemented, further complementing the conservation efforts.

Incorporating innovation into natural conservation methods, the team integrated Internet of Things (IoT) technology with rainwater harvesting. By leveraging IoT-based sensors to monitor borewells and measure water level fluctuations and soil moisture, they empowered farmers with real-time data to optimise water usage. This approach encouraged water budgeting and ensured a balance in water utilisation.

One of the selected locations for operations was the Thippagondanahalli catchment area in Karnataka, a vital source of drinking water for Bangalore. Covering a vast area of 460 square kilometres, the team constructed 2,700 structures for groundwater recharge along river streams with the invaluable assistance of volunteers. Over eight to ten years, the project was successfully implemented in 278 villages, driven by the experts' and volunteers' unwavering determination and combined efforts.

The team strategically built boulders, recharge wells, and injection wells tailored to the specific requirements of each location. Additionally, water pools were created to store surface and groundwater, ensuring a year-round water supply. Tree plantation played a pivotal role, as the team constructed 'eco-restoration cells' around these water pools, attracting bees and birds. The continuous plantation of trees by the experts and volunteers allowed roots to attract water molecules, replenishing aquifers and facilitating river water flow.

Kumudvathi River before and after (left and right respectively) the project intervention

The project's impact extended to the Kumudvathi watershed, located on the left bank of the Cauvery River. This overexploited catchment area in Karnataka witnessed the team's ecosystem restoration efforts, including tree planting and the construction of recharge systems. Built over 2,500 structures, benefiting more than 190,000 people in 200+ villages. Additionally, 86,000+ trees were planted, creating a positive environmental impact. A trial run of IoT-based water level sensing was conducted in six villages, providing optimal water utilisation and maintaining river basin balance.

The achievements of The Art of Living's Water Conservation Projects are noteworthy. With over 70 rivers/streams being rejuvenated, covering an area of more than 59,000 square kilometres across eight states, the project has planted over 7,00,000 trees along river basins and constructed around 90,500+ structures. These efforts have positively impacted the lives of 34,500,000 people.

The dedication, vision, and willpower the experts and volunteers demonstrated have resulted in tangible outcomes. The Art of Living has played a crucial role in inspiring the nation to rejuvenate and overcome the challenge of water scarcity in India. By leveraging technical expertise; community engagement; and innovative approaches; they have offered hope for a better future where water resources are conserved, rivers flow, and lives flourish.