“There is a deep relationship between humans and rivers…if there is water, there is life”
The Ganges River Basin is home to 650 million people and thousands of species, including turtles, gharials and the endangered Ganges river dolphin.
Regarded as one of the most sacred rivers in the world, sadly removal of water for farming, industry and househould use, pollution and climate change means the health of the Ganges and its tributaries is suffering, and as a result, so is the welfare of the millions of people that rely on it.
We’re committed to improving the health of a 400km stretch of the Ganges and the Ramganga tributary. As part of this work, we’re helping local communities to adapt to climate change through better agricultural and water management practices
For the long-term health of the Ganges to improve, much of the work we are involved in needs the support and active participation of the local community. Our efforts to help restore and protect the river will only be successful if it’s led by those who rely on the river the most.
Tara Devi is a Government Health Worker and part of a network of local volunteer groups called the mitras or ‘friends’ of the river. Made up of members of the community , local doctors, academics, students and businesses, these groups are committed to improving the ecological health of the river.
The commitment and hard work of the volunteer mitras is testament to the significance of the Ganges to Indian society. With our funding and support, the mitras help educate their communities on threats to the river and take part in practical conservation work like monitoring and testing water quality and engaging with the Government to implement policies that will improve the river’s health.
As part of Tara’s day job as a health worker, she spends a lot of her time in villages working mainly with pregnant women, babies and young children. As a result, she witnesses the impacts of unclean water used in every part of the local community’s daily lives. It’s her work in the area that spurred her on to become a mitra and help restore the Ganges back to health.
“I’ve seen people suffer from lethal diseases because of their use of polluted water. It can cause stomach infections, which babies and small children are particularly vulnerable to.”
We are working with the mitras to reach out to local farmers and offer them simple ways to reduce the costs of agriculture and potentially increase their crops, while also protecting the river. They do this by using natural pesticides and fertilisers instead of toxic chemicals. Tara herself was one of these farmers:
“When WWF first came to our village, we were sceptical about the new practice to use natural fertiliser, which would supposedly increase crop productivity, reduce costs, and protect our water from contamination. People’s entire livelihoods were at stake so it was a big risk.”
Working with local volunteers, 65 farmers in the region switched to organic pesticides. They witnessed an astonishing result:
“Initially I used the organic fertiliser on one unit of my land. There was an increase in the quantity, the crops were more resistant to disease and the quality was better. Now I use it on the entire area.”
For Tara, working with us ensures the long term security of her community by ensuring the long term health of the river.
“I meet a lot of people every day to educate them on health schemes so I am more than happy to also educate them about how their daily choices can impact the river - the lifeline of our existence.”
Our work to restore aquatic wildlife and improve the health of the upper reaches of this 2.500 km long river still has a long way to go and it can only be achieved by the continued efforts of local communities and incredible volunteers like Tara.