Vrindavan, 2017.07.23 (Krisztina Danka): Did you know that one of the holiest rivers in India has been “stolen,” to be replaced by industrial waste and sewage? Did you know that the pollution affects over eighty million people, including children, 23% of whom suffer and die from lead and arsenic poisoning? And did you know that most probably you too contribute to this ecological disaster?
When I set out on this journey to make a study of the Yamuna River, I had absolutely no idea.
Back in 2013, while working on a documentary in India, I was asked by some of my local friends to help them raise awareness about the condition of their beloved river Yamuna. I knew the Yamuna is not only a water resource in India, but considered a Mother and a Goddess, as glorified in ancient Indian scriptures, and even in the national anthem. I had been to the river many times before, but as I dug into the topic, visiting sites upstream and downstream, interviewing environmental and medical experts, as well as sick children, and a mother whose little child – the same age as my own daughter – had just died because of water poisoning, I was stunned.
But the biggest blow to me was when I realized that unknowingly I, too, contribute to the problem.
If you are one of us who try to be a good citizen of the world, a caretaker of the environment, and who care about everyone’s right to clean water; who read labels, look things up in the desire to be a “conscious consumer;” and aware of what and whom you support with your own consumer and lifestyle choices, you should know the story of ‘The Stolen River.’
Responding to the plea of our young Indian friends, plus local grassroots organizations, over the past four years, our team of international independent filmmakers, environmentalists and human rights advocates have been working selflessly to cut through the labyrinthine network of interests of big corporations and other agents, to collect unbiased information and present the full picture about the causes and the devastating effects of the pollution of the Yamuna River, which flows through densely populated Delhi and the Braj area sacred to Hindus, and right behind the UNESCO World Heritage site the Taj Mahal, visited by over ten million foreign tourists every year.
Based on the information we gathered we created a unique film with many different layers. Taking the sacred Yamuna river’s special cultural importance into consideration, our film not only explores the environmental and socio-economic implications of the pollution, but also addresses the issue from spiritual, emotional and cultural points of view. And while “The Stolen River” is the journey of six young people (one American and five Indian) trying to put the puzzle together, discover the sources of the pollution, cope with their feelings, then struggle to find a solution, this film is really about all of us, who strive to preserve culture, nature and humanity in a world where more than ever before, “No man is an island.”
In today’s world of “fake news” and an at-times distrusted mainstream media, independent filmmakers and their supporting team have a significant void to fill. We have the freedom as well as the responsibility to tell the truth. Our goal is to help people making conscious choices by showing them how things really are, by presenting hard data and bringing facts to light (yes, we still believe in them), or tell stories that no one wants us to tell but that cannot remain untold.
‘An Inconvenient Truth,’ the iconic documentary about global warming, shook up millions of viewers and inspired them to take action. After ‘Blackfish’ came out, exposing the suffering of whales in captivity, people chose to refuse such entertainment, and SeaWorld Orlando suffered a $15.9 million loss in a year.
Film is a powerful medium.
Similarly, our ‘The Stolen River’ film aims not just to inform people, but touch their hearts and inspire them to take life-healing action.
Understanding the importance and the urgency of this project, I as the producer-director of the film did not take any salary, and used a big chunk of our family’s savings to cover the travel and shooting expenses. The rest of our dedicated crew either donated their time and talent, or worked for half of their industry rate. In this way, we were able to bring the project to its final stages.
‘The Stolen River’ has been finally completed. By raising international awareness, our goal is to extend the Yamuna’s legal ‘human’ status (that was recently granted by the Northern Indian state of Uttarakhand) to the other, most polluting states as well, restore the river, and improve the lives of the 50 million victims of the pollution. Please be so kind to donate to our campaign, and help our team to enter the documentary to festivals, get it promoted, and give the film’s topic the attention it deserves.
We purposely launched our fundraising campaign on March 22nd, which is the official World Water Day. Initiated by the United Nations, March 22nd every year is about taking action to tackle the water crisis: today, there are over 663 million people in the world living without safe drinking water and coping with the health impacts of using contaminated water from whatever source.
The Yamuna River’s pollution is simply one of the greatest natural disasters of our time.
In March 2015, half a million people – young and old, an international gathering of Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and atheists, farmers, teachers, holy people, poor street beggars and rich businesspeople –literally joined hands and marched 200 kilometers, in peace and unity, from Vrindavan to Delhi, demanding change. They did get promises, and there are some indications of things moving in the right direction, such as banning the usage of plastic in Delhi, or a court giving the same legal rights to the Yamuna as a “living human entity” [this order was recently struck down by the Supreme Court – ED] , but unfortunately, there has been no real improvement in the condition of river over the past few years. To speed things up, to make the cleaning of Yamuna a priority and thus save countless lives, the grassroots organizations need and count on us us to tell their story and make their voices amplified, to be heard all over the world.
Would you please join our enthusiastic team to make that happen?
I thank you, from the bottom of my heart!
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The film’s website: https://www.stolenriverfilm.com
More information about the river’s condition: http://saveyamuna.org
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