April 20: The United Nations has designated April 22 to be International Mother Earth Day. It is also the day when the Simhasth Kumbh Mahaparv commences in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh. Kumbh is India’s festival of creation, the biggest party on earth, for the earth. This mega festival attracts more than 30 million people and takes place in a cycle of 12 years at four sacred sites on our sacred rivers — Hardwar on the Ganga, Prayag in Allahabad which lies at the confluence of the rivers Ganga and Yamuna, Ujjain on the Shipra, and Nashik on the Godavari. The Kumbh reminds us of our place in the order of things in the creation and our duty to take care of our rivers, mountains, soil and land.
We have violated our duty to protect our soil and water. Now the violence committed on nature is translating into an emergency for humans. And nowhere is this more evident than in Maharashtra’s Marathwada. This year, the Godavari river in Nashik went dry. There is no water in Ramkund — the sacred pond in Nashik devotees come to bathe in during the Kumbh. In the town of Latur in Marathwada, water scarcity is so severe that the district collector has imposed Section 144 of the CrPC (making assembly of more than 10 people unlawful) for two months to prevent law and order problems arising from the water crisis. The administration has taken over 150 wells and tubewells near the city because the dam that supplied water to Latur’s population of 4.5 lakh and adjoining rural areas dried up in March 2016.