Inauguration of the You Are the Solution Summit
Eminent faith leaders, captains of industry, entertainment stars, development experts, media luminaries, and representatives from global bodies including the United Nations assembled at Parmarth Niketan for a historic two-day summit to help ensure a Swachh and Water-Secure future for India.
With the technical support of UNICEF and in association with other partners, the two-day You Are the Solution Summit of Leaders was organised by the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA). GIWA is the world’s first initiative that is engaging the planet’s many faiths as allies in efforts to create a world where every human being has access to safe and healthy water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).
The You Are the Solution Summit of Leaders was planned at the auspicious time of Ganga Dussehra in light of India’s urgent need to safeguard its quickly-diminishing water sources and to ensure safe and healthy sanitation for all. Within 13 years, it is predicted that India will have only half the water it needs, unless change occurs rapidly. Already, water scarcity is on the rise, with over 30 crore people impacted by deadly droughts last year alone. Meanwhile, more people are not using toilets in India than anywhere else in the world, and septic waste is being dumped with abandon, causing 80% of our nation’s drinking water sources to be tainted with sewage.
Political leaders, faith leaders and NGO leaders came together to address these pressing issues by working towards sparking a people’s-led movement for lasting change. Proceedings commenced June 3rd with a state-level “Swachh Uttarakhand/Swachh Bharat: You Are the Solution Summit.” It was officially inaugurated by the Union Minister of Drinking Water & Sanitation, Shri Narendra Singh Tomarji and GIWA’s eminent faith leaders, celebrities such as Vivek Anand Oberoi, Dreamgirl Hema Malini and many, many other dignitaries.
It was followed in the evening of June 3rd with a live-broadcasted national-level “You Are the Solution Summit of Leaders,” which continued through the 4th with high-level planning workshops. The Summit’s closing ceremonies on the 4th included a special national #GangaDay Celebration and addressed important issues concerning Ganga rejuvenation and restoration.
As Pujya Swamiji explained: “I am so pleased that the Ganga and Yamuna Rivers have been given rights equivalent to a person by a landmark decision of the Uttarakhand High Court. This means hope for millions of people dependent of Holy River Ganga, but there is still much to be done. As our Ganga’s—and our nation’s– waters decline and suffering increases, we know it’s time to do more than talk. Our Summit will help work towards understanding and implementing the actions now required from each of us in light of this great decision and India’s growing water and sanitation crisis.”
The first ever Ganga Awards were presented to dignitaries who have done exceptional work towards the powerful vision of a Swachh Bharat, where healthy sanitation and plentiful, clean water is available for all. The awards were presented to:
- UNICEF India for their dedicated support to improved WASH for all.
- Nirankar Saxena, Senior Director, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI), for his leadership in inspiring CSR to give back towards the mission of clean and green India
- Pujya Sant Balbir Singh Seechewal, for his leadership and vision in rejuvenating and restoring the sacred River Kali Bein in Punjab and spearheading many other anti pollution drives,
- Pujya Swami Maheshwarananda, for his contributions to Yoga on and Yoga off the mat,
- Chief Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh, Jathedar Patna Saheb and Giani Iqbal Singhji, for spreading the message of improved WASH amongst the Sikh community,
- Sandeep Gupta, Dainik Jagran, for his exceptional media social responsibility,
- Dr. PB Salim, for being a green leader and making two districts in India ODF, one of which, Nadia, is the first district ever to become ODF,
- Hema Malini, for dedicating her talent, time and tenacity to advocate for the cause of clean and green River Ganga and Yamuna,
- Swami Madhavpriyadas, for adopting 108 villages in Gujarat to be examples of a truly Swachh Bharat.
The Summit also coincided with the 65th birthday of Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, President of Parmarth Niketan and Founder/Chairman of Global Interfaith WASH Alliance India. His vision and work was extolled by all the leaders.