Cauvery Calling — FAQs — Part 3
I had attempted answering some of the questions that people came to me with on the recently launched Cauvery Calling campaign in South India. My earlier posts are:
Cauvery Calling — What is known so far?
Now that Isha Foundation has opened up its next big project — Cauvery Calling, already the fekus in India are starting…
Here I am attempting to post some more questions that have come from many more people about this project. This might be a long read — so please be patient or feel free to switch to the question that is most pertinent to you :)
[Note: Almost all this information is publicly available in the videos and articles released by the Isha Foundation and social media. I have merely consolidated this information in one place.]
(1) Why Cauvery Calling now?
If not now, when should be the question everyone should be asking themselves. It is already late because there has been rampant looting of Cauvery’s resources and the public is totally apathetic about it. Some activists may have been crying hoarse but who is caring for it really to move to a long term solution?
Lot of court battles have happened and road-side protests have happened over sharing of Cauvery water.
But who is really looking at the river itself and working towards rejuvenating the falling water levels?
It has taken someone like Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev to awaken the whole nation and definitely the Southern Indian states, to the plight of Cauvery and show the path for a long term solution, lest we end up in Water Wars.
So far, it has been all about ‘using’ Cauvery. Now, we are moving towards saving / rejuvenating Cauvery first and then using the waters. This is a positive step in itself and should be welcome by everyone.
(2) Why such a big budget of about 10,000 crore Rupees for this project?
This is an often asked question and one needs to understand that though the costs look humongous when put together, remember this is over a 12 year period. That comes to less than 850 crore Rupees per year (i.e.) about 70 crore Rupees per month.
Just to give a comparison, the Tamilnadu Government alone is spending over 68,000 crores in the current fiscal just on electricity subsidies and farm loan waivers.
If we add in the subsidy costs incurred by the Karnataka State Government as well, we are talking about less than 1/10th of the current costs, to in fact bring our farmers to a financial situation where they may not even need these subsidies in 5 to 7 years!
So, it must be seen as an investment for a better future which is a win-win situation for both the state treasury and the farmers.
(3) Why not get the saplings cheaper?
Saplings can be obtained for Rs 15 per sapling also in some of the road-side nurseries for common household plants. For some of the common tree saplings, it ranges around Rs 30 to Rs 35. For some of the commercial tree saplings though, it can go as high as Rs 100 per sapling. So, Rs 42 is an average cost.
Even if we combine the output of all the road-side nurseries in Tamilnadu and Karnataka, along with the 30+ bigger nurseries maintained by Isha Foundation itself, it will still not match even 10% of the initial requirement of 72 crore trees in 4 to 5 years, forget about the 242 crore saplings in 12 years. So, there is a need to establish a whole lot of infrastructure around the nurseries as well.
Many people may not even think about the variety of the landscape that is present in the Cauvery basin. It cannot be all neem trees or tamarind trees or sandal trees. A variety of vegetation is being planned for the basin based on the native conditions. Detailed project reports have been prepared by the Rally For Rivers team and submitted to the state Governments already. Once the reports come out, we will know the exact type of trees being planned for plantation.
Many may not also have considered how the saplings will be grown when there is a water shortage already. It takes about 1.5 to 2.5 years for some of the tree saplings to be grown to a state where it can be donated for planting on farm lands. And who is going to be tracking and reporting about the plantation that is happening? All these costs have to be considered in perspective here.
The money from donations will go towards:
- Generating and nurturing saplings to be distributed
- Setting up and maintenance of nurseries, including labour and infrastructure requirements like water, electricity, etc.
- Replacements for saplings that do not get to grow fully, for any number of reasons
(4) Who appointed the board members of Cauvery Calling?
The Cauvery Calling team has setup a very eminent board of some of the top personalities in India from relevant fields.
One question that has come is up who has setup this board and why only these board members. The first part of question is easy to answer. Somewhere it has to start and since the Cauvery Calling (CC) project is an extension of the Rally For Rivers (RFR) campaign, the CC board has been appointed by the RFR board members.
Why only these members? There is nothing like that. Recently there has been news on Twitter that socially active celebrities like Actress Radhika and Cricketer Ashwin Ravichandran are also joining the Cauvery Calling campaign.
Ultimately, this is a people’s campaign and somebody has to hold the accountability for whatever happens with the project. Some people have stepped up to shoulder the responsibility and they are the board members. Anyone else interested in taking up more responsibilities may also contact the Cauvery Calling team.
(5) Why not do the audits by government entities instead of going to a private party?
If one goes to audit by Government entities, some people might say that the any Government entity is corrupt and hence cannot be trusted. If one goes to audit by Private entities, someone else might ask how to trust that private entity!
In general, in matters of handling huge financial transactions, companies and even banks across the world feel it is best to go with private entities. Hence the choice of a private entity by the Cauvery Calling board to audit the financial transactions.
(6) Will trees be planted in Tamilnadu or Karnataka?
The 242 crore trees being planned will be planted in both Tamilnadu and Karnataka. Primarily, it is the Cauvery basin that is targeted for this plantation.
Also, the plantation will be by the farmers in either state in their own lands.
(7) Why is the project not promoting river interlinking?
Cauvery Calling is not explicitly promoting river interlinking like from Godavari or Krishna to Cauvery because river interlinking has to be undertaken in a very scientific manner. It cannot be done on emotional basis as it can have severe impact on the ecological systems of both the rivers being interlinked.
This is the exact text in the Rally For Rivers policy recommendation document about its stand on River Interlinking:
“In our view, the underlying assumption of interlinking of rivers, that the average flow in each river is constant, and inter-basin transfers will yield additional water resources for exploitation, has been weakened. At our present juncture, we need to see our rivers as endangered entities that need to be nursed back to life by augmenting their flows. This is of paramount importance. Shifts in cropping patterns towards less water intensive crops as well as more efficient irrigation practices need to be encouraged with adequate investment and support. Only after that, can small-scale river linking projects (to start with) be scrutinized carefully in terms of biophysical, climate change, ecological and economic aspects.”
(8) Will the money really reach farmers?
This is a very valid question and the answer is of course, yes — but not as money! Farmers in Tamilnadu and Karnataka states along the Cauvery river basin are being encouraged to move to AgroForestry. That is, having commercial and timber trees in their lands along with whatever crops they might be growing in their farmlands already.
The Cauvery Calling project involves the Government action also, in order to support such farmers moving to AgroForestry to be provided some level of financial subsidy in the initial 3 to 4 years as support. After the initial period, such subsidies will not be required for farmers.
(9) What does a donor of Cauvery Calling project get?
One can donate on the cauverycalling.org website for this Cauvery Calling project. Apart from the satisfaction that one has positively contributed to uplifting the state of our farmers, the donors will also get the donation receipts which they can claim under 80G section of the Income Tax Act for tax exemptions. Posting here an image of the certificate:
(10) Will farmers really move towards AgroForestry?
Already close to 70,000 farmers in Tamilnadu have moved towards AgroForestry with the support of Isha Foundation (Isha Agro Movement) and have benefitted immensely out of it. Most of their annual incomes have gone upto 5 times in a span of 6 to 7 years.
With the Cauvery Calling campaign also, the on-ground team of volunteers have surveyed over 1200 villages (from July 31st to 15th of August 2019) and more than 9000 farmers have expressed interest to move towards AgroForestry.
So, obviously, they are seeing value in such a move and it only needs to be seen by others before everyone adopts the model well in the next few years.
[To be continued …]