River Ganga as a World Heritage Site

“Let the River Ganga be not only a National Heritage but also a World Heritage. She not only brings life and livelihoods to the people living directly on Her banks but also brings great inspiration and liberation to those who come from all across India and all around the world to bathe, breathe and bask on her glorious banks, in the lap of the Himalayas in the Simply Heaven state of Uttarakhand. Let this declaration be a motivating message to the other four states she flows through to join together to preserve and protect her as our spiritual, cultural, natural, national and world heritage,” said HH Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, President of Parmarth Niketan (Rishikesh), Co-Founder of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance and Founder of the Ganga Action Parivar #RISHIKESH

At a unique gathering of some of India’s most revered faith and interfaith leaders, a sweeping consensus, on the auspicious occasion of Ganga Dussehra, was reached to declare the Upper Ganga Region as a World Heritage Site. Ganga Dussehra is renowned as the day the Goddess Ganga came down to Earth to liberate the souls of King Sagar’s sons, also referred to as ‘Gangaji’s birthday,’ and is celebrated with great love and enthusiasm. It is a day when millions come from all across India and across the world to bathe in Her holy waters. The faith leaders gathered together in Parmarth Niketan (Rishikesh) this evening to inspire pilgrims and devotees to pledge and commit to protecting and preserving her waters and her tributaries.

Said Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, “Each day, 2.9 billion liters of waste water from sewage, domestic and industrial sources are dumped directly into Mother Ganga, of which over 80% is sewage discharge of 50 cities located along the river.It is not enough to worship her but to also put our worship into action to prevent pollution, over-exploitation and over-extraction of her waters.”

The faith leaders suggested immediate actions should be taken by all state government’s ensuring: 1. Restored ecological flows at every point along the Ganga’s course. 2. Preventing and curtailing all waste water, starting with sewage and industrial waste, from mixing with the river. This especially needs to be prevented along the heavily polluted Kanpur and Varanasi stretches of Ganga. 3. Promoting massive water conservation and water resource management, inclusive of rain water harvesting schemes, at both centralized and decentralized levels within the Ganga River Basin. By giving each other a sacred green Rudraksha sapling the faith leaders pledged and encouraged massive tree plantation on both sides of the river.

Lauding the Ministry of Water Resource and Ganga Rejuvenations DPR Release with the Forest Research Institute as a great step in the right direction, they urged for the plantation to be a people’s effort with multi-stakeholder and faith based organizations involvement.

Added Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, Secretary-General of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, “On this joyous occasion, let us also take a moment to pray and offer our respectful homage to all those who lost their lives in 2013 tragic floods of Uttarakhand where the rushing waters of Mother Ganga rose to heights unseen in over 100 years, at this very time of Ganga Dusshera three years ago. We are reminded of the message that Mother Ganga and Mother Nature taught us during that tragedy. On Ganga’s birthday in 2013, she gave us an ultimatum: ‘Care for me, care for my mountains, my trees and my tributaries and I will bring you life and liberation. Deforest my mountainsides, pollute the air such that the warmth melts the glaciers, dam and divert me, and you will reap the consequences.’ Let us remember this message and pledge ourselves to protect and preserve her for our future generations.”

Added Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singhji, Regional Director of World Health Organisation South-East Asia Region who was also present on the occasion, “I have learned so much today from being here and I assure Pujya Swamiji that WHO stands with the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance and the work that is being done to ensure pollution free rivers that are protected and preserved for the health of our planet and our future generations.”

There was a beautiful Ganga Dusshera puja with the chanting of stotras, prayers and hymns for Mother Ganga. Thereafter, faith leaders performed the world-famous Ganga Aarti, at the conclusion of which, the assembled seers raised their hands in a rousing pledge for a Swachhta Kranti: a Clean Revolution for Mother Ganga. They were joined by thousands of people from around the world, who vowed to plant trees, keep our sacred rivers clean and green.

There was a special interfaith water blessing ceremony, praying and pledging for access to safe and sufficient water for people and children all around the world.

The ceremony was followed by a special Nadi Narayani: Dance for Rivers by Oddisi Natya Sala and young students and girls dressed as sacred rivers leading pilgrims, devotees and yatris from many countries and from all across India in a pledge to preserve and protect all rivers and water bodies.

Attending the celebration were: Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, President of Parmarth Niketan (Rishikesh) Pujya Swami Satyamitranandji, Bharat Mata Mandir, Former Shankaracharya Pujya MM Swami Asanganand Saraswatiji, Parmarth Niketan Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singhji, Regional Director of World Health Organisation South-East Asia Region Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji, President of the Divine Shakti Foundation, Secretary- General of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance Pujya MM Swami Harichetanandji Pujya Acharya Dr Lokesh Muniji, Jain Faith Leader Pujya Acharya Pundrik Goswamiji, Vrindavan Pujya Jai Krishna Prabhuji, Yamuna Rakshak Dal Respected Paramjit Singh Chandok, Head of Delhi Bangla Sahib, Sikh Faith Leader Respected Shri Sushil Goswamiji, Sarva Dharma Sansad With Swami Satyamitranand Giriji Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswati Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati

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