- Global warming
- Global economic collapse
- Peak oil/energy consumption
- Urbanization and population
- Global water crisis
- Malnutrition and food security
- The proliferation of nuclear weapons
- Loss of biodiversity and species extinction
To find a solution to these crises, we have to look beyond the current worldview. Traditional practices have much to offer in this regard, for they value the miracle of life and are rooted in the principle of humanity’s service to Mother Nature and to one other.
As the Native American proverb states: We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, but we borrow it from our Children.
With this mood, GEV and its partners have ventured into many community initiatives that we hope will bring in positive and long-lasting change for a better future.
Integrated water conservation & protection
Water is the basis of sustenance for an entire community – for the farmers, animals, and for the environment. GEV’s water conservation project aims to ensure a reliable water source for a community by building water tanks, ponds, and restoring dried lakes for rainwater harvesting and groundwater recharge.
The ideal location of these bodies of water is identified after a thorough hydro-geological survey of a village. The next step is to ensure the quality of the groundwater. With no municipal sewage systems in many locations in rural India, there is a risk of sewage contaminating the groundwater. Hence there is a need to focus on water protection, along with water conservation, and implementing green sewage management technologies.
To implement this integrated approach of water conservation and protection, it is necessary to build community watersheds and avoid sewage management techniques that could potentially contaminate the groundwater.
A model project was set up at GEV, which won the SKOCH Platinum Renaissance Award and Order-of-Merit for being rated among the highest scoring projects in India.
The water requirement for GEV was met by extracting water from the Vaitarana River and supplemented by groundwater. Pumping river water may be sufficient for current water demands, but it may not be viable option in the future. With the community’s growing population and increasing number of visitors, the average water requirement is expected to be approximately 100,000 liters per day.
Groundwater provides an alternate source of water that could be used for drinking and agricultural water requirements of GEV. Hence our primary goal was to create a natural system to help us attain sustainability without disturbing the existing ecology.
The groundwater extraction had been mainly through five bore wells, two of which were low yielding and remained unused. The discharge in the other bore wells was also inconsistent. As was the case with many rural locations, GEV adopted the system of open sewage. As the community members increased, we later shifted to septic tank based systems.
However, in both cases we discovered that Escherichia coli was contaminating the groundwater bore wells. This bacteria is often found in fecal matter and if ingested can cause diarrhea and at worse kidney failure. The microbiological test of the drinking water showed a coliform count 54 times above acceptable limits. It was therefore essential to prevent groundwater pollution caused by improper sewage management.
For water conservation, we conducted a hydro-geological survey of the entire Eco Village. Two spots were identified for a rainwater storage pond of 10,000,000 liters capacity and a groundwater recharge pond of 2,500,000 liters capacity.
For water protection, a SBT (Soil Bio Technology) plant was implemented, which processes all the sewage generated in the community in an ecological, low-energy and chemical free way. This method effectively integrates with the natural bio-geochemical cycles of nature.
Since introducing the SBT plant, GEV now has:
• Improved biodiversity
• Reduced dependency on river water
• Consistency in the bore well water discharge
• Less odor and mosquitoes, leading to improved living conditions
• SBT recycled water irrigating a nursery housing more than 500 varieties of plants
Skill Development Training
Wada Taluk is mostly hilly in nature & rural population in this taluk comprises mostly of scheduled tribes (Adivasis).
1.Only one crop per year due to rainfall dependency.
2.Lack of proper irrigation facilities. 50% of the land is irrigated by wells however there is only one well per 375 acres against the one well per 25 acres ratio in Thane.
3.10% of the families migrate during non-monsoon seasons.
4.Lack of women entrepreneurs due to lack of skills and support.
5.Alcoholism and crime rates have increased due to lack of education, skill and employment.
- 1.Skill training for self-employment
- 2.Training & Employment opportunities in various fields within GEV
- 1.Organic Farming
- 2.Animal Care
- 3.Green Buildings
- 4.Water Conservation
- 5.Integrated Waste Management
- 6.Arts & Handicraft
- 7.Plant Nursery
1.Organic Farming Skill Development
- 1.Natural fertilizer and pesticides making
- 2.Composting for fertilizers
- 3.Irrigation techniques like sprinkler and drip systems
- 4.Permanent Raised Beds
- 5.Seed Preservation
- 6.Crop Rotation Techniques
- 7.Natural Pest Control Systems
- 8.Soil Preservation Techniques
2.Animal Care Skill Development
- 1.Medical assistance to cows
- 2.Preserving Pure Breeds
- 3.Natural cosmetics using Cow dung and Cow urine
3.Green Buildings Skill Development
- 1.Compressed Stabilized Earth Block Making Training
- 2.CSEB Building Training
- 3.CSEB Pointing Methodology Training
4.Water Conservation Skill Development
- 1.Rain water harvesting techniques
5.Integrated Waste Management Skill Development’
- 1.Solid Waste composting
- 2.Waste water Treatment
6.Arts & Handicraft Skill Development
- 1.Incense Sticks Training
- 2.Tooth powder
- 3.Bathing Powder
- 4.Bamboo Products
7.Plant Nursery Skill Development
- 1.Horticulture training includes
- 1.Pruning techniques
- 2.Grafting Techniques
- 3.Pest Control Techniques
1.Increased Employment Opportunities
- 1.100 men and women trained in CSEB Building Technology locally. CSEB Building Technology is a specialized process unlike the traditional brick mason work. Instead of hiring workers from other states, we have imparted skill training to the locals and created employment opportunity locally during non-monsoon seasons.
- 2.25 men and women trained in horticulture techniques.
- 3.25 men trained in Compressed stabilised earth blocks making locally.
- 4.Over 200 farmers have been imparted skill training and guidance for doing more than one crop in year through our rural development organic farming skill training program.
- 5.For women, Skill training for self-employment has created opportunities to earn and also to save and multiply the earnings more than 12 Self-help groups for women are started in villages around GEV for women empowerment.
2.More than one crop in a year even during the non-monsoon seasons.
3.Migration of the trained families during non-monsoon seasons stopped due to local employment opportunities, multiple crops and self-employment.
4.Self-help groups started to help women entrepreneurs.
5.Alcoholism and crime rates have reduced due to reduction in migration, stability in family relations because of employment opportunities and values imparted during the skill training.
A Holistic Development Program for Rural & Tribal communities in Wada Block of Thane District was started to cover atleast 500 tribal families over a period of 6 years. Working with BAIF-MITTRA, the project started in April 2009 with five families in one of the tribal villages around GEV. Today the project activities are being undertaken in 6 villages in Wada block which are located around GEV. The villages covered are Ghore, Ghuir, Galtre, Hamrapur, Nane and Sange.
The overall objective of the program is to improve the standard and quality of living of the poor tribal families through a ‘holistic and enabling program’ approach. This can be achieved by helping the tribal families to develop productive assets such as a ‘Wadi’ (integrated farming system comprising of horticulture, agriculture and dairy) or other non-farm enterprises to enable them to earn substantial and sustainable livelihood over a long term period.
Thane is one of the northern districts of Konkan region in Maharashtra. It is surrounded by Sahyadri hills on East and Arab sea on West, dense forest of Gujarat on North and India’s business capital Mumbai on South. The program started in Wada block, located on the northern part of the district. The Wada block has illiteracy and migration problems. The proportion of needy families with in each village are very high.
A quick baseline survey was conducted in the villages selected and it was found that most of the tribals were marginal farmers and landless. We began by generating awareness among the tribals by regular village meetings which helped us to understand the views of the families and their status of agriculture. This was followed by exposure visits to other successful farmers which helped them to get a first hand experience of the potential developmental activities.
The core methodology is to have an agro-horti-forestry approach where in the tribals are encouraged to grow one or more species of fruit trees with food grains, vegetables and flowers in the spaces between the fruit trees. And along the boundary of the plots a large number of multi-purpose trees are planted. While the grains, vegetables and flowers fetch short term income the fruit trees are expected to provide assured income every year. The multi-purpose trees meet various demands like domestic fuel fodder etc. This integrated approach will not only ensure a sustainable source of income but will also ensure that by consuming the fruits and vegetables grown the nutritional levels of these families will go up. Supporting the agro-hori-forestry some villagers are also trained in soil & water conservation, water resource development, organic farming and sericulture.
Over 150 families participating in this program today with all of them involved in soil conservation and organic farming.
Over 35 training sessions and 20 educational film shows conducted last year
Maximum income earned by a farmer – Rs 50,400/-
Average income for all the farmers – Rs 7,000/-
Landless families supported by setting up sewing machines, grocery shops, snack centers, carpentry and stationary shops etc with monthly incomes ranging from Rs. 1,500 – Rs. 9,000.
Along with economic improvements, determining the root causes of poor health and how to improve the quality of living, particularly for women, is also a focus. The Wadi initiative also ensured food security and the alleviation of poverty by empowering the women.
What we did
The health activities were initiated through improvement in nutrition of the families. Eighteen families were promoted to grow vegetables in the Kitchen Garden. These Kitchen Gardens are setup right next to the residences of the families and utilize the waste water from the showers and kitchen to grow vegetables like brinjals, ladies finger, chillies, tomatos etc. This encourages the families to regularly eat fresh vegetables. A strong emphasis is placed on organizing women through the formation of self-help groups and improving their skills, such as organic gardening and paper bag manufacture, through training and exposure visits.
Twelve female self-help groups were formed with 119 members as part of the Wadi program. Regular field visits and training camps were conducted on water chlorination, paper bag manufacture, organic kitchen gardening, water harvesting, floriculture, and forestry.
The participating women gained confidence in their self-sufficiency and collective initiatives.
Rural Health Care
Bhaktivedanta Hospital and GEV, as a part of its mission to serve the needy, have been rendering free and concessional community health services to the villagers in and around GEV.
Health check-up camps
A Community Health Care center was established at Hamrapur, 5km from GEV, where thousands of patients have been screened and medicines distributed free of cost. The Community Health Care Center is a boon for locals, who otherwise do not have access to medical services.
More than 3000 villagers locally in and around GEV have been screened for cancer as a part of the preventive health initiatives. Cancer patients have been provided treatment for free or in some cases at nominal cost treatment at the Bhaktivedanta Hospital in Mira Road, Mumbai.
School health initiative
In the past two school years, Bhaktivedanta Hospital has screened more than 2000 municipal school children in and around the Eco Village. The main objective was early diagnosis and treatment, which also created health awareness among children. In the coming years, the plan is to screen all the schools in the Wada area.
Supported by the Lions Club of Juhu, the senior citizen camp initiative focuses on providing healthcare for elders in the villages. More than 2000 senior citizens were involved in this program so far. Patients requiring specialty care are referred to the Bhaktivedanta Hospital for free treatment. Bhaktivedandanta Hospital’s main center in Mira road for free treatment.
Some of the social initiatives GEV is involved in are the free distribution of blankets to senior citizens, classroom seating and school exercise books along with water filters for the schools. Hand driven tricycles were provided to the physically challenged.
Spread over 10 states in India, the Annamrita project is spearheading the country’s fight against poverty and illiteracy, providing hygienic, nutritious, and tasty meals to more than 120,000 students. ISKCON’s food relief foundation has implemented the midday meal scheme of the Government of India under the name of ‘Annamrita.’ The Midday-Meal Scheme is a school meal programme of the Government of India designed to improve the nutritional status of school-age children nationwide. The government provides the raw rice and a minimum cooking charge of Rs 3.50 per child, the remainder of the expenses are borne by ourselves.
To many children, Annamrita provides their only complete meal for the entire day. This nutritional meal has produced dramatic results in terms of increased enrollment at schools, retained attendance levels, reduced drop-out rates and the improved attention spans of the students. The Annamrita kitchen near GEV caters to almost 30,000 students from 400 schools.
Vrindavan Biodiversity Park
GEV is a symbiosis of environmentally sustainable living and spiritual renaissance. For the devotees of Krishna, care for nature and the planet is not just ethical, it is a quintessential part of Vedic philosophy. The Earth is not a planet or a resource to be exploited, but rather preserved, cherished and its products sensitively employed in service to the Supreme Godhead.
Ideals & Inspiration
Vrindavana, the holy birthplace of Sri Krishna, represents the ideal ecological system where all the plants, herbs, trees, lakes, rivers, mountains, animals, birds, and even humans are luxuriantly thriving in perfect harmony with each other. There is no enmity – only a shared purpose of pleasing Krishna and creating the perfect atmosphere for His divine pastimes. Taking inspiration from the sublime and symbiotic biodiversity of Vrindavana, GEV is developing a ‘Vrindavana Biodiversity Park.’
The Biodiversity Park will be landscaped on the theme of the 12 forests of Vraja. Govardhan Hill, along with several lakes, will grace the landscape and the river ‘Yamuna’ will meander gently through. The sweetness of this spiritual and natural experience is supported by green technologies such as water harvesting, symbiotic waste recycling, alternative energies, green building technologies and so on, thereby ensuring a minimum carbon footprint. Some of the features of the project include:
- Ten acres landscaped as a replica of the original Vrindavana (a dense thicket with beautiful vegetation and trees)
- Hand-carved cobblestone/marble tiled pathway (parikrama marg) running for more than 2.5km and traversing all the 12 forests of Vrindavana
- Gathering spaces for talks about Krishna’s pastimes and kirtana near pastime places like ghats, kunjas, vatas, samadhis and so on
- Sri Govardhan Hill with Radha Kund and Shyam Kund
- Yamuna River (500ft long, 30ft wide x 4ft deep) with five prominent ghats
- Stone chatris (dome-shaped pavilions) on the banks of the Yamuna for shade and to experience the cool breezes from the river
Sitting in the lap of Mother Nature, surrounded by mountains on all four sides and the Vaitarana River flowing nearby, GEV is an ideal setting to experience the sweetness of the yoga of devotion and the beauty of the world.
Vedic Cultural & Educational Centre
GEV is based on the sacred Vedic principles of bhakti-yoga. These principles create strong bonds between the community members, which inspires them to serve with a positive outlook.
Here an idyllic life has been woven to form a rich fabric of loving harmony and nurturing. The backbone behind all the GEV eco initiatives – such as water conservation, organic farming, alternative energy, cow protection, and rural development programs – are the people who live together in this community.
The community development programs and environmentally sustainable initiatives at GEV are powered by the spiritual principles of harmony and respect, understanding that everything in Nature belongs to God and should be used in His service.
Therefore, God and His temple are the epicenter of all activities at GEV. With this culture of respect, everyone learns to see everything around them with a vision of love and gratitude, which then reflects in the way they treat those around them.
Until now the community’s worship and cultural programs were being held in a makeshift hall. However, with an expanding community and interest shown by the villagers in these spiritual programs, a gorgeous temple for Sri Sri Radha Krishna is being constructed. This temple will be a hub for cultural and educational activities for the entire region and therefore has been named the ‘Vedic Cultural & Educational Center.’ Some of the features of the project are:
- Stone temple with ornate carvings around the dome of Krishna’s pastimes in Vrindavana
- 40ft high, hand-carved stone structure
- Bansi Paharpur pink sandstone
- Temple hall capacity: More than 1000 people
- Solid strand-woven bamboo flooring, covering 4500sqft of the temple hall
You could also participate in the project by contributing Rs 5,000 per sq.ft. Please visit our donation link at: http://donations.radhagopinath.com/
Animal cruelty can be either deliberate abuse or simply the failure to take care of an animal whether it’s a pet, a farm animal, or wildlife. Neglect is not giving an animal the right food, water, shelter, or healthcare. Neglected animals undergo prolonged suffering and eventually die making neglect as serious as abuse.
In the words of Radhanath Swami, “Protecting one’s child is not just about not killing them; it’s about making them happy. And what makes everybody happy, whether you are a cow or a child or an old man or a young woman … you are happy when you are loved. We feel loved when we are cared for. And it’s little gestures that actually transmit that intention and that’s really what bhakti is about.”
The Vedic culture does not restrict “reverence to life” to just humans, but extends this cardinal principle to all forms of life including even animals. Showcasing this aspect GEV today hosts cows, dogs, donkeys, geese, ducks, sheep and goats. Our objectives are
- To create awareness about the abuse and neglect animals sometimes endure
- To set an example of respectful engagement and care for animals
The basic need of every living entity is to love and to be loved.
We feel loved when we are cared for and this is absolutely true in the case of all living beings, whether human or animal. At GEV
we have set up various facilities for animals where they can experience this care.
GEV has an excellent facility for cows where they can freely roam and enjoy without being bound by ropes. With a strict policy against using ropes that pierce their nose, the bulls are respectfully engaged by using harnesses and made to feel worthy of some contribution to the society.
Being grateful for the various gifts that the cows provide, we practice the principle of ahimsa, whereby cows are given an opportunity to live a quality life, even after they stop providing milk.
Apart from the rope free zone, we have shaded and open areas for the animals to move at their will, grazing fields, special care sections for sick cows, constant access to clean water, and staff regularly monitoring their health and needs. Most importantly, there is a loving community to care for them.
Here the dogs are provided cool shade surrounded by lawns, water pools and hygienic, nutritious food. Similar facilities have been created for the other animals like donkeys, sheep, and goats.
Added to the loving facilities, all the community members as well as guests spend time with the animals, petting them and loving them. This has made the animals feel more secure and satisfied, and also docile in their behavior – happy, contributing members of our community.
Lady Northcote Hindu Orphanage
The year 1900 saw a severe plague ravage the city of Mumbai and parts of the State of Gujarat, claiming innumerable lives. The wife of then Governor of Mumbai, Lady Northcote, with the help of some affluent businessmen, started the Lady Northcote Hindu Orphanage (LNHO) to provide shelter to the children orphaned during the catastrophe.
The original trustees had a provision that the children be provided excellent quality training and education, along with spiritual values. However, over the years the standards and the facilities deteriorated. In the late 1980s, the trustees requested Radhanath Swami to bring the orphanage into modern times and provide a spiritual revival. In 2005, LNHO was shifted to GEV to provide a serene atmosphere for the children.
The vision of the orphanage at GEV is to emotionally, socially, and spiritually nourish the children, drawing out their inherent talents and providing guidance for their bright future.
What we did
In order to live a life of responsibility and dignity, a holistic training model has been developed. Unlike the modern-day emphasis on only academic training, the LNHO educational curriculum also includes training in vocational skills, spiritual qualities, and physical wellbeing.
• Interactive teaching methods
• Students are trained in taking notes, rapid reading, writing and study
• Special tuitions for mathematics and science
• Periodical exams
• Home Schooling
• Annual educational tours
• Painting & craft
• Cow protection
• Cottage industries related to cow products
• Value Education
• Sloka recitation
• Studying Vedic literature
• Discussion upon various themes explained in the sastra
• Musical instruments
• Deity worship, singing & dancing
• Traditional games like kabaddi, kho-kho, wrestling
• Routine medical check ups
• Training in basic hygiene
LNHO today caters to about 60 underprivileged rural children, none of whose parents have ever gone through a system of formal education. Over the past many years every single students has cleared the standard X board examinations (as per the Maharashtra State Board of Education) with more than 50 per cent of students scoring well above distinction.
The school has also produced many athletes who have won awards in traditional games like wrestling and kho-kho.
Corporate Social Responsibility
The role of Corporates in social building is gradually increasing. Today by becoming a good corporate citizen, an organization can improve its competitive edge in respect of attracting and retaining investors, clients and employees. It is important for businesses not only to provide products and services to satisfy the customer, but also to ensure that the business is not harmful to the environment in which it operates. In order for an organization to be successful, the business must be built on ethical practices. Companies are increasingly pressurized to behave ethically. This pressure comes from customers, consumers, governments, associations and the public at large.
Corporate Social Responsibility is a way for corporates to give back to the society and help make a difference. Govardhan Ecovillage is connecting various corporates to grass root level projects helping them invest directly in many social initiatives in the fields of health care, sanitation, education and development in rural India. If you are in-charge of the CSR activities of your organization get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org