By Madhava Smullen
Govardhan Ecovillage, ISKCON’s 100 acre farm in the foothills of the Sahyadri mountain range in Maharashtra, has won the 2019 National Energy Globe Award for India.
The Energy Globe Award was founded in 1999 by Austrian energy pioneer Wolfgang Neumann, and is one of today’s most prestigious environmental awards. Its goal is to present successful sustainable projects to a broad audience, to show that many of our environmental problems already have feasible solutions.
Every year, some 800 projects from all over the world that conserve and protect our resources, or employ renewable energy, participate. One award winner is chosen from each country.
This year, Govardhan Ecovillage won the award for India, and was invited to receive the Energy Globe certificate at a ceremony held at Yashwantrao Chavan Centre in Mumbai recently.
Presenting the certificate to Ecovillage Director Gauranga Das was Deputy Director General of Advantage Austria Patrick Sagmeister. Also in attendance were Dr. Robert Luck, Commercial Counsellor at the Austrian Embassy, and Austrian Embassy Director Ramesh K. Kalnawat.
Govardhan Ecovillage received the award in particular for two of its prime initiatives: Integrated Water Conservation, and its Protection Scheme in the tribal villages of Maharashtra’s Palghar District.
“Govardhan Ecovillage is a model farm community established to showcase how to live in harmony and respect with people, nature and the divine,” says Director Gauranga Das. “We’ve implemented various green technologies on our campus and have been working with tribal villages to make them sustainable, while giving respect to mother Earth.”
GEV is acting as a role model village by implementing green technologies for waste and water management, as well as water resource development (WRD) for irrigation and drinking water in tribal villages.
“We underwent a hydrogeological survey to establish a 10 million liter rain water harvesting pond to recharge ground aquifers and irrigate our fields,” Gauranga says. “We also set up a Soil Biotechnology (SBT) plant, which processes 100,000 litres of sewage water daily and is used for irrigating the field.”
GEV helps around fifty tribal villages by providing lift irrigation and customized irrigation practices. Nineteen hundred farmers have benefitted so far, while drinking water initiatives have benefitted 5,500 villages. By 2025, GEV is expected to help 14,400 villages through its water resource development initiatives.
Owing to the education and irrigation support by Govardhan Ecovillage, more than 1,100 farmers have adopted organic farming practices and planted over 131,000 horti-floriculture crops in the last few years. This has increased their annual income by thirty to thirty-five per cent. In addition, more than 6,000 farmers from all over Maharashtra have been trained in organic farming through educational sessions.
GEV has also helped reduce poverty in tribal villages through various initiatives like empowerment of women, rural education, water resource development, rural health care and skill development for tribal youth.
For all these initiatives, Govardhan has previously received the United Nations World Tourism Organization Award (UNWTO), and became affiliated with the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA).
The GEV project is also being studied by high level institutions such as Yale and Harvard Universities as a model for ecological sustainability and rural development.
When asked how he feels about receiving the new award, Gauranga Das says, “It is a wonderful opportunity to share the earth honoring teachings of our Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition with the world through the example of Govardhan Ecovillage. The crest jewel of all the Vedic Scriptures, Srimad Bhagavatam, teaches us that Mother Earth is the consort of Lord Varahadeva, and thus living a life of respect to her is an important principle of our tradition. So it’s wonderful to be rewarded for living by those principles, and to get an opportunity to represent ISKCON for the same.”