The Nagnadhi River Once Dried-up Now Flows Perennially: Women Take On The Art of Living Initiative
Rivers are the life force of the planet. As for India, the country depends on them as one of the major sources of agricultural practices. The remarkable efforts of the women of Tamil Nadu have brought back one such river from the brink of extinction. It is the Naganadhi River in Vellore District of Tamil Nadu.
Naganadhi, a seasonal river in Tamil Nadu, had completely dried up in the last 20 years. That is when The Art of Living, under the vision of Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar launched the River Rejuvenation Project to revive the river basins across the country. It started in 2014 with a team of technical experts including scientists, geologists, and volunteers who surveyed the rural areas of the Vellore district to implement the Naganadhi River Rejuvenation Work as a part of water scarcity management in the country.
Constructing recharge wells and boulder check dams was essential to rejuvenate the river. Initially, around 20,000 women took up the challenge to revive dried-up rivers through the project. As the word spread, the tally rose to 44,000, with volunteers enrolled under MGNREGA getting involved in the scheme of things. These women volunteers worked tirelessly under the guidance of The Art of Living to dig wells and build and place cement rings. As a result, groundwater levels rose from one meter to eight meters, bringing the river back to life.
It was a moment of pride for these women volunteers in Tamil Nadu when the Honourable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, praised their efforts and teamwork for the third time in his recent 100th episode of 'Mann ki Baat'.
Shri. Chandrashekhar Kuppan, Director of The Art of Living River Rejuvenation Projects, has been awarded and honoured with the Ponnadai (Golden Shawl) for the efforts of reviving the Naganadhi and other rivers. It was truly a moment of appreciation and gratitude.
All the volunteers' efforts have earlier been recognized and appreciated by everyone in the country, including Shri S.A. Raman, the District Collector and Chairman of the District Rural Development Agency of Vellore, who praised the successful implementation of the project in a letter dated January 18, 2018
Moreover, several measures were taken to instil hope and faith regarding the project among the locals, starting with capacity building of rural youth and women. Locals were trained in various yoga practices. They inculcated these practices in their routine, which helped build a sense of community and made it easier for everyone to come together and work to revive the river basin.
To this date, 366 square kilometres of the catchment area for the Naganadhi River basin successfully revived with 40% of it lying in the Tiruvannamalai district, while 60% of it lies in the Vellore district. Originating in Amirthi, Vellore, and the river flows downstream through around 20 Gram-panchayats to join the Kamandala River before it finally unites with Cheyyar River, approximately 48 kilometres from the starting point.