Why 'Gandhi of Water' Rajendra Singh Is Traveling the Length of the Ganges River

Considered the Gandhi of water issues, Rajendra Singh is an activist about to begin an incredible journey in order to bring attention to India's water problems. Starting on October 1st at the threatened Goumouk glacier in the Himalayas, the head of the Ganges River, he will walk along the river's length to its mouth at the Bay of Bengal. Singh is embarking on this 37-day journey for a singular purpose -- to illustrate how the health of our fresh water systems determines the health of human populations. He wants to save the Ganges river from pollution, misuse, damming and climate change, and thus save the 600 million people who depend on the river for their water needs.

We've discussed the Ganges river many times, from saving its dolphins to saving the river itself from salinity and the impacts of climate change. But the Ganges is one of many major rivers worldwide that is under dire threat from human impacts. Singh's walk is a important one to bring focus on this river and its issues. But even more importantly, his walk will bring attention to our freshwater systems everywhere, and how all of humankind is dependent on healthy river systems for not just fresh water, but also food, healthy ecosystems, clean air, energy, and more.

Rajendra has been an advocate for water issues for 25 years, and has helped bring seven rivers back to life, impacting over 2 million people. Once called a "good for nothing" by his family for wanting to help make a difference in India, he now is a leader in solving its water woes.

In a press release he states, "For me the Ganga is more than a river, it is the lifeblood of my country. For thousands of years she was worshipped and revered, but now she is treated as nothing more than a waste train... Millions come to worship the Ganges, to bathe in her - but their worship is a false one for it has become an empty ritual. Real worship is practiced everyday, not just for ceremonies or bathing days. Most praise the Ganga one minute and throw their waste or sewage the next. This has to stop!"

Singh's focus is on solutions that will work for the people dependent on the river. He feels that large centralized water and sewage treatment systems won't work because of prohibitive costs, and instead advocates for smaller solutions using appropriate technology for rural and developing areas. A focus on what works for the river and the people who live along it, rather than what is profitable, is one of his primary concerns.

There will be a documentary film crew with him through his journey and we'll follow up with how his trek goes during October. For now, here is more information on why all our major rivers need some serious attention:

World's Dirtiest Rivers and Lakes (Slideshow)

Sigourney Weaver Deconstructs Disasterous Belo Monte Dam in 'Defending the Rivers of the Amazon' (Video)

No More Baptisms in the Jordan River - Expected to Run Dry by 2011

Amazon River Water Being Stolen and Bottled Abroad

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