Dr Bharat Jhunjhunwala
THE Government is committed to supply electricity to the people. There is no gainsaying that electricity is necessary for raising the living standard of our people. Also water has to be extracted from the river for irrigation in order to establish food security of the country. But that is only one aspect of the matter. The culture, religion and environment is also important and these have to be factored into the decision making process.
The Government of Uttarakhand intends to use every inch of every river and rivulet in the State to generate hydropower. The hydropower companies provide 12 per cent of the generated electricity free to the host State. This is expected to become the main source of revenue for the State. The Governments—both Center and State—find it necessary to dam the rivers in order to secure the above objectives.
On the flip side, environmentalists argue that purpose of economic growth and even provision of electricity is to secure welfare of the people. It is incorrect, they say, to reckon ‘welfare’ merely in physical terms of standards of living. We seek betterment of material standards of living only to make people happy. And, they say, happiness is as much secured by taking a bath in the pure unrestricted and free flowing waters of the Ganga. Crores of Hindus spend their life’s savings to come to the Kumbh in order to take a dip in the Ganga. Therefore, it is incorrect to look at only the material benefits for generation of electricity. We must also factor in the psychological or spiritual benefits from free flow of the river. These benefits, they contend, are so huge that dams should not be built on the Ganga River and those under construction should be immediately stopped.
The common denominator in both arguments is people’s welfare or happiness. There is a need to define this clearly. Psychologists tell us that there are two levels in our psyche—the conscious and the unconscious. These can be understood as the mind and heart respectively. Many desires or tendencies are placed in the heart during early childhood or the time that the fetus is in the mother’s womb. These desires are very strong but feeble. They are strong in the sense that they are difficult to grasp or to remove. They are feeble because their voice is of low decibel. A person is happy, they say, when the mind and heart are working in the same direction. Say a young man heart’s desire is to listen to classical music. However, he goes to a disco at the calling of his friends. In such a situation he will come out unhappy. It is my experience that people whose heart and mind are working in different are often inflicted with psychosomatic diseases like BP, asthma and skin diseases. This happens because the inner energy of the heart does not support the mind’s endeavours and the two pull the person in different directions.
The argument of the environmentalists is that Ganga helps strengthen and invigorate the heart. The feeble voice of the heart is strengthened and made somewhat louder. This helps the person change his life orientation in resonance with the heart. The energy of heart and mind begin to work in the same direction and the person is both happy and successful. I have undertaken a study of pilgrims who came to take a dip in the Ganga at Dev Prayag, Rishikesh and Haridwar. 77 per cent of the pilgrims said that they got mental peace from taking the dip. This happens because the mind gets oriented towards the heart and the tension between the mind and heart is removed. About 26 per cent said they got health benefits. This happens because the energies of the heart are unleashed. 14 per cent said they got benefits in business and 12 per cent say they got benefits in service. This happens because they may redirect their efforts in direction that is amenable to the heart.
Free flow of rivers adds to economic development in another way. It is clear that economic development requires effort and entrepreneurship. It is seen that many natural resources remain unutilised because people do not make the effort. This effort is increased by invigorating the heart. We often see people sitting and whiling away their whole day. They could use the day to do business or some other productive activity. This energy is got by taking a dip in the Ganga. The grand cities of the Indian civilisation—Indraprastha, Agra, Kanpur, Varanasi, Patliputra, Nalanda and Kolkata—are all located on the banks of the Ganga or Yamuna. It may be that these rivers gave certain psychological energy to the people residing on their banks which led them to build a vibrant trade and these grand cities. Therefore, preservation of the subtle psychological qualities of the Ganga will also add to material economic development.
Uttarkashi-based Ganga Aavahan Organisation has got study of the subtle quality of water of Ganga River done at the Aqua Viva Laboratory of Switzerland. They took samples of water upstream- and downstream of Tehri Dam and sent them to the lab. The scientists took photographs of the water crystals of the samples. They found that upstream water crystals showed bright spots of energy while downstream crystals were bereft of energy. Similarly Japanese scientist Masaru Emoto has studied the subtle qualities of water. He says the water molecules form six-cornered clusters similar to those of the benzene ring. They do not remain in a chaotic or disorganised state. These six-cornered clusters form beautiful images. Images of crystals of free flowing rivers and natural springs are very beautiful and intricate while those of polluted and stagnant waters are disparate and ugly. It is possible that water of Ganga River acquires certain special structures as it flows by the holy shrines of Badrinath and Kedarnath. The pilgrims taking dip in the Ganga are affected by these subtle powers of water.
These subtle qualities of water get destroyed when the water dashes against the blades of the turbine during generation of hydropower. This can be understood by an example. Let us say a plate of food consisting of roti, dal, vegetables, salad and sweets is placed before you. Now put all these in a mixi and then place them back in the plate. Will it be tasty and sumptuous? The subtle quality of river water gets similarly destroyed as it passes through the turbines. Then there are other negative impacts on water quality by deprivation of beneficent metals like copper and chromium, removal of beneficial bacteria like coliphages and removal of algae, etc.
It is necessary for the Government to have a detailed study done of the impact of dams on the quality of water; and on the benefits to the people taking dip in the Ganga. Similar impacts are known form Narmada, Mahanadi and Krishna Rivers. The ‘precautionary principle’ requires that all hydropower projects should be put on hold till this is transparently done.