Today we listened to a lecture by Dr. Ravi Chopra, a member of the People’s Science Institute. This institute works to eradicate poverty by empowering the poor in productive, sustainable ways with foci in natural resources management, environmental quality monitoring, disaster mitigation, and river conservation. Dr. Chopra explained the issues of dam construction and its impacts on water in India. Today, a major concept that I was completely ignorant too was the harmfulness of dams in this country. Dams are constructed to develop hydropower, however, states of India rely on very little hydropower, and the impacts of dams on ecosystems and human health outweigh its possible benefits. Such disadvantages include harming life by dumping the remnants from digging dams into rivers, decreasing the purifying ability of rivers by eliminating the number of beneficial bacteria in river, harming land by explosions used to clear the way for dams, land subsidence, collapse of slopes, and protest and social unrest which occurs as a result of these negative factors.
However, the most interesting discussion during this lecture revolved around the nature of rivers in India. I was unaware that the Ganga had scientifically purifying properties. We have repeatedly discussed it’s believed purifying properties in terms of sin in the Hindu faith, but I was unaware of its biologically purifying potential. The Ganga contains a massive amount of sediment. This is because the young Himalayan mountain range is made up of very soft rock that is easily erodible and breaks off into the water. Then, bacteriophages with the ability to destroy bacteria within the water sit on top of the sediment and multiply. In addition, the rushing of the water incorporates pure oxygen into the water. However, this potential is unseen especially in holy cities in which there is immense pollution of the water, creating areas of black, “dead water” as Dr. Chopra explained. If more people realized this natural purifying ability, this river would have the potential to provide safe water to more people, but the religious implications that influence how people treat the river counteracts this and overwhelms the river to the point of complete pollution.
The final implication of water that I found extremely telling of the possibility of spirituality and science coming together to make positive influences on the environment pertain to the principles of Kashyapa’s Wisdom. However, since India’s modern managers of water maintenance are unaware of traditional Indian knowledge, this possibility is unseen. The principles are as follows: the source of a river is sacred, there should be minimal disruption to the flow of river water, water and forests have a symbiotic relationship so water is especially important in these regions, we should not pollute rivers, and everyone should contribute to the conservation of rivers. These principles are all very comprehensive and simple, however, those in charge of river management are engineers who have very different viewpoints that consider only the water itself and not the ecosystem around it when making decisions and designing projects. River water is a life source for plants and animals all over India, and spirituality is a major part of human life in India. If those in charge of the care of rivers take into account the principles listed above, making each a priority, not only will rivers become healthier, but so would the land and life within and around it. This made me realize that every environmental choice has impacts on other areas of life, and by realizing this, positive changes can be realized.