LADAKH: A vital two day International Conference with the theme of “Saving the Himalayas through Science and Spirituality” in Leh, Ladakh was organised by the Save the Himalayas Foundation (SHF), in association with the LAHDC Leh, Mahabodhi International Meditation Centre – MIMC, Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, DLF Foundation, HESCO and Integrated Mountain Initiaitve. The inaugural programme took place at the beautiful CIBS Auditorium, Choglamsar.
The three-day conference was an effort to bring organisations and individuals together, across government, CSO, faith based organisations, scholars, experts and various other stakeholders, to find and implement solutions that can help preserve and protect ecological biodiverse Himalayan regions like Ladakh.
Dr John Mobley, Executive Board Member, Save the Himalayas, USA warmly welcomed everyone. He also shared SHF’s three pronged mission to promote:
- Water Conservation
- Renewable Energy & Solar power
- Sustainable and Responsible Tourism
Said Ven Bhikkhu Sanghasenaji, Founder of Mahabodhi International Meditation Centre, heading the organisation of the conference in Ladakh, “I am so grateful to Pujya Swamiji who has been a lover and supporter of all things environment, education and world peace…The presence of so many eminent leaders here illustrates that Himalaya is so important for everyone, from spiritual leaders, scholars, scientists, to everyone. I am certain that together we can do our part to abate the challenges and hardships this region faces. The challenges to the Himalayan region not only impact the natives but truly impact the world because the Himalayas are the carbon sink and water towers of the world.”
Said HH Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, President of Parmarth Niketan, Founder Chairman, Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA), the Chief Guest of the programme, “Himalayas doesn’t need us; we need the Himalayas. Hence, it’s not really about saving the Himalayas as it’s about saving ourselves and our future generations. If we consume and degrade the planet at the rate we are, our future generations will ask us what have we done. Therefore, we must remember this one simple mantra: Himalaya Hai to Hum Hai! (If Himalayas thrive, then we thrive)”
He led an energetic pledge bringing everyone’s hands together and repeating after him, “We will work together, walk together, save together, serve together & be together. Bharat Mata Ki Jai (Hail to Mother India).”
Said Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, President of the Divine Shakti Foundation and Secretary General, GIWA, emphasised, “Three essential paths must come together to protect the Himalayas: Sena (Army), Sangha (Community) and Sarkar (Government). The culture of the Himalayas is where the secret/the key to healthy and happy living -real life- for the world lies. The Himalayas also gives us sacred life in our bodies, through plentiful clean air, water and soil. When we pledge it means that we commit to make changes in our lives. Himalayan culture is not a culture of use, abuse and discard or consume and throw. When we save this culture, our roots, the Himalayas will automatically be saved. Lastly, let us really ask ourselves every minute and every moment of our day through what we eat, what we buy and how we live, by these little, little things in our lives, how are we being part of the problem or how are we being part of the solution?”
Said Imam Umer Ahmed Ilyasiji, President of the All India Imam Organisation, “Faith leaders have an important role to play. We have the power to reach out through our congregations, followers and communities to impact real sustainable behaviour change. I particularly and deeply appreciate Pujya Swamiji for his vision and efforts to conserve water, build toilets, plant trees, improve sanitation, and dedicate ourselves to protecting our planets, this is not the work of any one faith but rather of every human and will impact all of us and this to me is real worship. Let’s all remember and be inspired by such positive examples and do good for others, because we are human first. Before we belong to any religious group or community we must always preserve and serve our collective humanity- that to me is the greatest religion.”
Said Secretary General WWF-India, Shri Ravi Singh, “There is no place like Ladakh. It is a unique and special combination of ecology, spirituality, heritage and historic knowledge. We must reflect upon our core actions that we take as a result of the competency of our individual organisations and as individuals. Hence, by the time we come back next year we will be able to assess what we have achieved and how we have contributed to be part of the solution.”
Said Dr Vandana Shiva, Founder of Navdanya, “We are meeting at a time where Kerala and Kularia floods are happening right now. It’s because we have forgot our ecological security. Pujya Swamiji so rightly said we should not be so arrogant in saying that we are protecting the Himalayas, rather the Himalayas saves us by providing us with life-giving clean water, air, soil and stability. Himalayas is the true source of our spirituality and our science. I strongly believe that because 80-90% of all pollution is caused by packaged water and food the most important action we can take is to create a truly Organic India. If the world turned to organic farming we can not only protect our water, our soil, our bodies and Mother Earth but also put enough organic matter into the Earth that can pull out the excess carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, that has been built up by chemical farming, climate change and is destroying our agriculture.Hence, the 10 gigaton gap of emissions that Paris Agreement can’t meet, we can meet with dharma, conscious, collective and spiritual action.”
Said Dr Anil Joshi, “Science often makes us materialistic but when we add spirituality we become more realistic. We can not talk about the Himalayas without talking about the community. But who is included in that community? Only the natives? A large majority of the population of the Himalayas are people from outside of the region who have come to vacation and enjoy the beauty of the Himalayas. They are also the ones who cause the most pollution and damage to the Himalayas. The principle of nature says that the consumer must be a contributor. However, local community suffers the most and so there must be a movement that brings together the pan Himalayan region to demand for the rights and the protection of the Himalayas. This was the vision that helped us come out with an annual Himalaya Diwas.”
Said Lt Gen Updaya, Corps Commander, Ladakh, “The aspirations of the local community drives the development of the region and they in turn have the biggest stake and responsibility in my opinion. However, by bringing our shoulders and our efforts together we can do a lot more together and inspire the locals to envision a sustainable and holistic vision of the region.”
Swami Vishnupaadji, Representative of HH Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji read his message that said, “Himalayas is the father of all of creation in the Hindu spiritual tradition. Human greed and insensitivity is the root cause of all pollution. We must work by cleaning the mind and the hearts of the people. The one who is sensitive and lives with simplicity within can only be sensitive to their environment. Hence, spiritual values alone elevates ones consciousness and promotes a sense of caring and commitment for the whole planet.”
During the conference there was a call to make Himalaya Day an International day by the United Nations and several commitments of local organizations to carry out efforts to support the mission. There was also a commitment by WII to help SHF in preparing a document for proposing Leh- Ladakh as a UNESCO world heritage site. WWF pledged to help in planning the region with a sustainable and responsible tourism vision.
Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswati, Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, Dr Vandana Shiva, Dr Anil Joshi are on the advisory board of SHF. They announced and warmly welcomed everyone to participate in the #HimalayaDay celebrations at Parmarth Niketan (Rishikesh) on the 9th September.
In closing of the ceremony there was a beautiful singing of the national anthem led by Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji and Imam Umer Ahmed Ilyasiji, as a symbol of oneness and togetherness, which was joined by all of the eminent dignitaries as well as the hundreds in the audience.
Eminent dignitaries on the dais and in attendance also included:
- Maj Gen Yash Mor,General Officer Commanding,Leh Sub Area
- Col SK Sharma, Commander, Ladakh Scouts Regimental Centre,Leh
- Shri Dorjay Motap, Chief Executive Councillor, LAHDC, Leh
- Dr GS Rawat, Dean, Faculty of Wildlife Sciences, Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, Councillor and Executive Member, integrated Mountain Institute (IMI)
- Sulekha Kumbhare, Hon’ble Member, Minority Commission, GoI, Nagpur
- Dr OP Chaurasia, Director, Dihar, Leh (DRDO)
- Brig Sodhi,Station Commander,Leh
- Col HS Rana, Eco Task Force, Dehradun
- Dr Mohammad Deen, Ladakh Environment Health Organisation And many others.
The States Times has done a beautiful story on this event, read it here: