Indian among eight women to undertake first ‘Access Water’ expedition on Ganges

New Delhi: In a unique initiative, eight women from eight different countries, spread across six continents, have come together to undertake a 55-day-long water-conservation and education-related expedition along the River Ganges from October 20.

U.S.-based education, explorer and team leader Ann Bancroft told ANI on Friday that this unique expedition would commence from October 20 and end on December 8.

Elaborating, Bancroft further told ANI, “That initially, we eight women were to start our ‘First Access Water Expedition’ from Antarctica, but our sponsors backed out, and India turned out to be our second choice. We chose the Ganges to begin the ‘Access Water’ series because the area represents a great example of a deep-rooted dependence on water for human existence.”

“There is a critical need to educate students and local communities about the (global) water crisis that only affects overpopulated areas like India, but to also connect the same problems to their own backyards,” she added.

Bancroft said that apart from herself, the other seven women accompanying her on the expedition were (1) Liv Arnesen of Norway; (2) Olfat Haidar of Israel; (3) Cindy Jiaojiao Hu of China; (4) Marcia Gutierrez of Chile; (5) Kim Smith of South Africa; (6) Lisa te Heuheu of New Zealand and Krushnaa Patil of India.

“We want young people to discuss solutions to end the pollution of water. We want people to ask what they can do, what their families can do, their communities can do. Develop a long-term vision for the global conversation and access to clean water. This is a seven continent initiative to engage and empower young people to cooperate with each other. The spiritual element of this trip is also important,” said Bancroft.

Arnesen told ANI that the expedition would start at Gaumukh, Gangotri and pass through a variety of communities and cities such as Kanpur, Allahabad, Varanasi, Patna, Kolkata and New Delhi. She said that the expedition is being sponsored by a host of organisations, including the Embassy of Norway, Google, TERI, UNESCO, Young Pioneers of China and Tunheim.

The key objective of the expedition was not only to explore the wonders of the River Ganga, but also to find how communities and organisations are working towards meeting the demand for cleaner water and inspiring others to do the same.

When asked why only women were selected for the expedition, Arnesen said, “Women are peacemakers, solution seekers. We are a group of women of different ages, practicing different religions and coming from different backgrounds.”

Bancroft and Arnesen said they hoped to use their experience and their journey along the river to “show how water and environmental issues along the 1500-mile-long Ganges River are similar to other places around the world, and to stress the significance of innovative solutions that are vital to the future of the planet (Earth).”

Both said, “Our dream as educators of connecting with millions of students cannot be achieved without the strong partnerships and shared values to actualize ‘Access Water’. Google is powering the stories we discover along the shores of the Ganges to millions of young people.”

When asked whether their expedition was in any way linked with the Indian Government’s much-talked about and much publicised “Clean Ganga” mission, Arnesen said, “No, but they are aware of the expedition and its objective, and we have their go ahead for it.”

She further revealed, “That we are a group of women leaders, with a shared vision to create a better tomorrow by inspiring the future leaders to demand safe, clean water for everyone. Whether you want to be an engineer, work on a farm, or become a doctor, water touches each and every person’s life. We wish to bring about a thorough process which could help make instrumental changes in the way we operate so as to create a better world in which we live, and that’s what the ‘Access Water’ series hopes to accomplish.”

Arnesen said translators would assist the team throughout the expedition and in the interactions with school and college-going children, besides others.

Norwegian Ambassador Nils Ragnar Kamsvag wished the eight participants all the best for their nearly two-month long journey, and said, “Water security is an important issue to address and take action on. Raising awareness on the issue combined with education are vital elements of the long term solutions of these challenges.”

He also said achieving the clean water goal is feasible, as far as Norway is concerned, because it had the state-of-the-art technology required for the same, and all that was really need was a strong social and political will and desire to move forward on it.

Chetan Krishnaswamy, Google India’s Head for Public Policy, said Google has decided to partner the “Access Water Expedition” to raise awareness about the government’s “Clean Ganga Project”.

He said the Ganga has been India’s lifeline for millennia, and the view at Google was that “all of us need to do our bit to preserve the sanctity of this river and conserve its rich riverine ecosystem.”

Starting with Asia, the ‘Access Water Expedition’ will cover Africa, Oceania, North America, Europe, South America and Antarctica in the years to come.