‘Wrong precedent’: Leonardo DiCaprio urged to withdraw support to ‘Cauvery Calling’ campaign

Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By
Sep 26, 2019 11:24 AM IST

Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio recently wrote a message on his Facebook page in support of the Isha Foundation’s ‘Cauvery Calling’ campaign.

The Coalition for Environmental Justice in India, a coalition of NGOs, civil society groups and individuals, has written a letter to Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio, expressing concern at his support to the Cauvery Calling campaign launched by Isha Foundation.

Leonardo DiCaprio recently put a post on his Facebook page supporting a campaign for Cauvery river.(REUTERS)
Leonardo DiCaprio recently put a post on his Facebook page supporting a campaign for Cauvery river.(REUTERS)

“India’s rivers are severely endangered with many of its smaller rivers vanishing. Join Sadhguru and the Isha Foundation in their fight to preserve the Cauvery river,” the ‘Titanic’ star and climate change activist said in a message on his Facebook page recently.

Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, the spiritual leader of the Isha Foundation, announced the launch of ‘Cauvery Calling’ in July this year with an aim to revitalise the dying river which is the source of livelihoods, irrigation and drinking water for 84 million people, according to news agency PTI.

The letter, written by Leo Saldanha of Bengaluru-based Environmental Support Group, on behalf of the coalition, says that Dicaprio “may not have been appropriately advised in supporting the ‘Cauvery Calling’ campaign”.

The activists said that the Cauvery Calling is not a programme that comprehends the river basin’s realities and her future well being.

“Cauvery’s waters are a critical resource to four southern states of India, and are being contested over intensely, resulting even in violent conflicts between peoples of the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Clearly, Cauvery needs all the help she can get now. In that sense, your support to rejuvenate Cauvery is very welcome.

However, the ‘Cauvery Calling’ campaign is not a programme that comprehends the river basin’s realities, and her future well being. It appears to be a programme that presents, rather simplistically, that the river can be saved by planting trees on banks of her streams, rivulets, tributaries and the floodplains of the river,” the letter reads.

“Welcoming” the planting of trees , the coalition said that “tree planting alone won’t achieve the critical task of saving Cauvery” and “such a programme could create unintended and unforseen social and ecological consequences.”

“The tree planting promoted by Isha Foundation, by inviting people to donate money to plant 2,420,000,000 trees, may appear incredibly attractive. But on deeper investigation it comes across as a method that promotes a monoculturist paradigm of landscape restoration which people of India have rejected long ago. Besides, such a programme could create unintended and unforeseen social and ecological consequences, as planting trees in certain regions (grasslands and floodplains for instance) could result in drying up of streams and rivulets, and destruction of wildlife habitats. Further, it can also lead to encroachments of the floodplains and riverbeds, as has happened at numerous places.”

Saying that DiCaprio may have been “poorly advised”, the coalition said the actor’s support ‘sets a very wrong precedent’ and urged him to withdraw his support to the ‘Cauvery Calling’ campaign.

“It is our considered view that you may have been poorly advised, or not have had the time to personally investigate the back ground of the promoters of ‘Cauvery Calling’, before you embraced the programme. Indeed the first part of your message is most welcome. However, we urge you to withdraw the second part of the message, as it amounts to promoting Isha Foundations ‘Cauvery Calling’. This is not a programme that will protect Cauvery, her forests, her biodiversity, her children, and her childrens’ children. It will certainly not save Cauvery. On the contrary, support for this kind of a campaign sets a very wrong precedent.”

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