Learning from the EXPERTS

• Earlier too I should have made my proposals bigger, because nothing is impossible.
• The entire Geo-hydrological scenario is getting changed, Creating extreme climatic conditions, making us suffer both drought and floods at the same time.

     MEET THE MAN BEHIND THE FLOWING RIVERS Dr. Lingaraju Yale, is one of the most highly respected and experienced Geohydrologists of India. Having served as the Director - Karnataka State Remote Sensing Applications Centre and thereafter as Director of Geomatics Centre, Water Resource Development Organization, Government of Karnataka, in an illustrious career spanning over 5 decades, Dr. Yale knew that he could not repose with retirement while the world headed towards a pressing climatic crisis.

     A shared vision to make a better world made him join hands with Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and The Art of Living. And thus, began the new chapter. The entire Geo-horological scenario is getting changed, Creating extreme climatic conditions, making us suffer both drought and floods at the same time. Earlier too I should have made my proposals bigger, because nothing is impossible. Dr. Hampi Chakrabarti in conversation with Dr. Lingaraju Yale, the National Director, River Rejuvenation Projects of The Art of Living.

■ What is unique about The Art of Living’s approach in working for River rejuvenation?

River Rejuvenation is a multidisciplinary subject because all the natural resources are integrated in nature. At The Art of Living, we work with an integrated approach to reach sustainable solutions. We think on all aspects, whether it is vegetation cover or soil erosion, enrichment of groundwater or surface water bodies. The bottlenecks created by multiple departments working with divided priorities, do not plague us. Our approach is innovative because we copy the natural biological engineering that we have had since ages. Above all, we have a workforce that works in the spirit of service, instilled by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s teachings on human values.

■ How do you choose a project for implementation?

The problem of water scarcity and pollution is widespread. Wherever you go, there is a need for such projects. But we need prioritising parameters for proper implementation. First I look into how interested the local community and the local grassroots government bodies are in our project, as they have to be made stakeholders for the sustainability of the project. Second is the magnitude of the problem. Third is the availability of basic data, either from the government or other institutions. Fourth is the availability of people who are interested in generating funds and the response of funding agencies, as any project requires huge investments. Once these basics are in place, we can work further.

■ Who are the essential participants of a team working for river rejuvenation?

The team must include - multidisciplinary experts who prepare and provide the plan of action. Then, people who can understand this and can implement it in the field and community mobilizers.

■ How to keep the team inspired?

It is happening (laughs). In my experience people who are driven to make a difference in this aspect, only they come and search for work opportunities with us. A spiritual quest to make a positive difference in people’s life, keeps them going. Moreover, they undergo a continuous training with me, which keeps them inspired.

■ What are the challenges that you have faced while working and how did you overcome them?

I take up anything with the belief that it can be done. But when I think of multiplying the effort and taking it to more areas all over the country, that is where I have faced the most challenges. Our plan of action has to be modified to be relevant to different geographies, geologies, climates. I need more people who can take up research and evolve the different methodologies. Many things can be done with remote sensing, but a lot still remains to be done by ground based investigations, we need special tools for that. Since, these are long term projects, we need accurate impact assessment to monitor our progress. For all these we need sufficient funds, government interest and support from the corporate.

■ How to bring the community to participate in the process?

When we go to the field and talk to the people, we explain to them the reasons why their rivers, ponds and bore-wells are drying up. This awakens their interest. Then when we tell them that we can help solve the problems in their village, people are happy. The Art of Living tools of community sensitization and mobilization like Nav Chetna Shibir, Bal Chetna Shibir and Youth Leadership Training Program work phenomenally in this regard.

■ How much does the cultural context play a role in convincing stakeholders that rejuvenation of a river is as much a spiritual exercise as it is technical one?

Spirituality is a binding force. Whatever the scientific or technical plans we make, the community or people’s participation comes because of the spiritual engagements.

■ What has been your biggest learning?

Nothing is impossible. I had not come here with the confidence that I could handle such big projects. If you see my earlier proposals they were very humble in scope. Now I think I should have made it much bigger. Because that is possible.

■ What is your vision of the work for the next 5 years?

There is a lot to do. We need to simplify methodologies for different geographical areas. We also need to assess the status of different river basins. Most importantly, we have to replicate, whatever has been done so far, to similar areas at a faster rate.