Ann’s KARE Interview
Ann recently spoke with her local news station KARE 11. Check out the interview and learn about her vision for our journey below!
Patna River Show
Yesterday started with our Patna River Show. The ashram is set in a canopy of trees planted by students 15 years ago and has an environmental focus. We were very lucky to see such a beautiful and motivational place!
Founded by Jesuit priests, the ashram welcomes those of all religions to unite and honor the Earth. Kids arrive every day for environmental studies courses. These are often hands-on sessions, with a small organic farm, solar power and even a small nursery on site.
We’re still amazed by the attendance our River Shows have – about 400 kids came to the Patna show alone! The kids shared a fresh meal with us before we said goodbye, we loved hearing their dreams and plans for a clean and protected Ganga.
Protecting the Ganga
The river is wide and deep now, sometimes five to eight kilometers across! We traveled 80 kilometers before dark (about 5:30pm) at a very quick clip. We’re carrying trees now and plan to gift them to those we meet on the Ganga. This is a small gift compared to the generosity we’ve been shown along the journey.
Once we set up camp, we had a long team meeting over dinner.
Our experiences with the Ganga and the people who depend on it have instilled in us the importance of fresh water more firmly than ever. The conflict between the Ganga’s need for environmental protection and its cultural significance is becoming more pronounced as we continue along the river.
Looking back on our experiences in Varanasi, the amazing holy ceremonies we observed were followed by the hosing down of ash into the Ganga. India is currently debating different ways to control the volume of ash produced by these ceremonies to better protect the Ganga. How can we instill the importance of fresh water and protecting the river without losing this significant part of local culture? We hope to continue this discussion and create new solutions with those we meet on our journey.
Life and Agriculture on the Ganga
Today we pulled our boats over to a small encampment on the Ganga’s bluffs. A large extended family farms the land and raises cattle and goats here, but lives about five kilometers away. We enjoyed holding the calves and meeting the children, who were a little shy!
Lisa wrote about the importance of agriculture in small communities like this one on the Ganga:
Agriculture is big on the Ganga. Farming is a way of life here, and it is so different to what we know at home in New Zealand. As we travel along the length of this vast and ever changing river system, so to does the farming and the land use change.
This is hard living. One village community, was totally obliterated by floods in 2013. They were forced to relocate their entire community to the adjacent side of the river and start again. It’s now 2015, their makeshift houses are made from grasses and sticks, and they are slowly rebuilding their community here. Everything they grow is for their own consumption, and there is very little nutrition in the village. They receive no government support for anything in their community, the vulnerability of their location on the river is viewed as high risk, and is seen as a waste of investment. Yet they are happy, happy to have a community, happy to be living with their families and thankful for their homes and lives on the Ganga…
“if the river changes an inch, either in direction or flow all this hard work will be gone, in one foul swoop, how do they find the resilience to keep going?”
With all this in mind I can’t help but think of home, think of the work I am doing around agriculture, education and sustainability. To be honest these villagers in the remote parts of India, work more with the land and its natural flow and function than we in developed countries do. They work with what resources they have, and their farming works with the land, not against it. They are happy to get enough to survive and feed their family. We are as humans pushing our planet to extinction. Where developing countries struggle with poverty and balancing environmental protection with pure survival, developed countries push commercial and economic greed to the point where our planet just won’t cope.
India thank you for the continuous lessons, and the education that I never knew I needed. Sometimes we need gentle reminders that it’s the simple things in life that are important.
Continuing on the Journey
Every day we’re reminded of modern technology’s importance. Our GPS is a blessing and without it we’d surely be lost in other channels of the river. The fog and haze can be difficult to navigate! We’ve already had minor navigation challenges but are back on track now. We set out for Bhagalpur tomorrow.