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- Chancellor Amma Addresses the Parliament of World’s Religions
- Amrita Students Qualify for the European Mars Rover Challenge
Amma’s vision of the preservation of nature is based upon the tenets of ancient Indian culture in which it is considered a divine duty. Caring for Mother Earth contributes to the wellbeing of all and is an integral part of life. The Ashram’s environmental initiatives innovate solutions towards this larger view, while at the same time are defined by simple, practical steps. They start at individual and community levels, yet can easily be adopted on larger scales.
Several of the projects and events have been formally recognized by UNESCO and the Government of India. The activities include construction of toilets, river cleaning, tree-planting drives, innovative waste-management solutions, environmental-awareness campaigns, assistance in organic farming, sustainable community initiatives like permaculture, and providing solar/hydroelectric power solutions.
Amma’s international activities are carried out by GreenFriends, a network of community-based organizations committed to protecting and healing the Earth. This includes the way to use the planet’s remaining resources and how to interact with the natural world. It is about what each person can do to help find a way to break the vicious cycle of environmental degradation and start a new age of living in harmony with all creatures, plants, and natural resources.
Namami Gange is a project by the Govt of India to reduce pollution of the Ganga River and bring about a rejuvenation of its sacred waters. In 2015, Amma contributed US$13 million (₹100 crore) to build toilets in the poorest villages in five states along the river basin. Toilet construction there is helping bring an end to the life-threatening diseases caused by widespread open defecation. The Ashram also contributed to education in the villages about why using the toilets is essential for health and wellbeing. Namami Gange is part of Swacch Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Campaign), a larger Govt of India initiative to clean up public spaces. In 2018, the Ashram’s contribution was recognized as the largest, and Sri Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, and Mr. António Guteres, General Secretary of the United Nations, presented Amma with an award for her leadership. The prime minister expressed that humanitarian leaders like Amma have provided the campaign with great strength, transforming it into a mass movement across India.
The construction of toilets in poor, rural areas across Kerala was inaugurated in 2015 as another part of the Indian Govt’s Swacch Bharat Abhiyan. The Ashram contributed $13 million (₹100 crore) to the campaign. The project includes education about how open defecation leads to water and soil pollution, which further contaminates food, leads to many types of parasitic infections, and can be life-threatening.
Amala Bharatam means “Clean India, Beautiful India” and is a campaign Amma launched in 2010 to remove trash from public spaces across the country, as well as to educate people about the need for community sanitation efforts. To date, more than 7,500 drives have taken place in cities and villages across 23 states, and more than 100,000 volunteers have helped to clean up rivers, parks, markets, temple grounds, and other common areas. As well, 6,500 information workshops have spread awareness in schools and to the general public. Efforts include the distribution of more than one million handkerchiefs to children to encourage personal hygiene. MA Centers worldwide also conduct regular clean-up drives in their cities and towns.
Encouraging farmers in India to grow organic crops started with 20 men from the poorest families in Sadivayal, an isolated tribal village in the middle of a forest in Tamil Nadu. The farmers were all in debt under the weight of changing weather patterns, pollution, and animals damaging their crops at night. Amrita SeRVe (Self-Reliant Village) first visited in 2016 and helped them form a government-registered farming collective and open a joint bank account. The farmers also decided to experiment with organic farming and started with rice. By 2020, they were out of debt and their crops were eligible for organic certification by the state government. They now receive much higher value for their yields and their annual income has increased. Amrita SeRVe is using Sadivayal as a model for other villages.
Sharing the value of growing kitchen gardens is an element in Amrita SeRVe’s health work in villages across India. It currently supports 10,000 impoverished people to grow organic vegetables on their own land. The villagers cannot afford to buy such produce in local markets, so growing their own helps them obtain essential vitamins and nutrients. But sometimes people are so desperate for income, they sell their own garden vegetables and replace the food with cheaper items that are not of high-nutritional value. Health workers take time to discuss with the family why the maintenance of their own health must take priority over immediate sales.
The One Trillion Tree Campaign is a global project that began in 2018 and now works to support the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030). Amma addressed the inaugural event and stressed that forests play the most significant role in supporting nature’s harmony. She said that each country should try to protect its remaining forests and plant as many trees as possible. Individually, people should each make a vow to plant one tree a month so that in a year, each person can plant 12 trees. The Ashram runs several tree-planting initiatives, including seed-ball projects and tree-planting by AYUDH India, Trees for Peace by AYUDH Europe, tree-planting in villages in rural India, and partnerships by MA Centers around the world with local tree-planting organizations. So far, more than one million trees have been planted.
Beekeeping is conducted by Amma’s centers across India and around the world to protect and support local bee populations and preserve biodiversity. Three out of four crops across the globe that produce fruits or seeds for human consumption depend on pollinators. But honeybee populations are disappearing, and scientists cite multiple factors, including pesticides, pollution, parasites, infections, and other threats. By investing in beekeeping, both in rural and urban areas, people are helping to safeguard biodiversity.