Two French girls Laure de Rotalier and Agnes Saule after traveling several countries came to Kanpur on April 12, 2004 to study Ganga and its religious significance. Their curiosity to know more about Ganga drew their attention towards Eco Friends. Before coming to India they collected information about Eco Friends and its activities through net. They spent 3 days with Eco Friends and shared their experiences with us.

Laure de Rotalier did her Scientific Baccalaureate when she was 18 years old. Then she spent 6 years in an Engineering School (ESCOM), which is a Superior High School of Mineral and Organic Chemistry. During her engineering she spent one year in a company, which produces paints. She studied ways to degrade colors by the method of Fenton (Iron + Peroxide) in Barcelona, Spain. She specializes in Biotechnology and Environment. She completed her Diploma in Chemical Engineering in September 2003.

Agnes Saule did her Literature Baccalaureate when she was 18 years old. Then she went for a 5 years degree course in Political Science. She specialized in Journalism and Management of Projects in developing countries. Simultaneously she did her Masters in English from Sordonne University, Paris.

What is the objective of your tour and which places will you be traveling?

We had opportunities to know different places and cultures during our school days. We always dreamt of traveling to different places and learning new things. In the year 2001 we decided to travel for 12 months with an objective to learn different cultures and lifestyles and we selected water as a subject of our study. We aim to make French students realize the importance of water.

What kind of water problem you have in France?

Laure: The major sources of water supply are rainwater, ground water and river water. The quality of water is better than what is found elsewhere. Problem is over-consumption. The extraction of ground water is very high which leads to shortages during summer. French pay water tax according to the quantity they consume i.e. around 100 Euros for 4 people in 3 months.

Agnes: The use of pesticides by the farmers is a major concern. The pollution level of our ground water is going up. Nitrate has been reported in the ground water of some areas.

Which countries have you been to and where will you go next?

We have been to Morocco to study the use of water in deserts and how nomads live in scarcity of water. We went to Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. These countries face conflicts over sharing of rivers’ waters. In Kenya we found that people were afflicted with several water borne diseases like typhoid, malaria etc.

We’ll go to China to study the issues related with pricing of water and dams. In Chile we’ll study the quality of water in cities and in Peru the quality of seawater.

How will you make use of your experiences?

3 different schools in and around Paris sponsor us. These schools want us to educate their students on water issues. When we go back we’ll sensitize the children of France on water issues of the world. We’ll teach them the importance of water and involve them in environmental issues. Children of France do not care for water, it’s important for them to realize the importance of water and evolve strategies to save water for future.

We’ll also sensitize a group of 400 friends and family people whom we met during travel. We’ll do this through:

  • Lectures and Presentations on water
  • Quiz, Games etc
  • Putting all experiences and data on website
  • Links on websites, dissemination of articles etc.

We also want to increase the efforts of Kenyan NGO (VVIEW) working for water quality improvement and sponsor an NGO in India working for the protection of river Ganga.

Which places did you visit in India? What are your experiences about Ganga?

We’ve been to New Delhi, Agra and Fathepur Sikri. In order to study the cultures prevailing along Ganga and quality of Ganga waters we went to Varanasi, Allahabad and Kanpur.

Out of the three towns we found Varanasi to be most religious place with several beautiful temples. In Varanasi we realized the importance of river for Indians. But one thing we found quite paradoxical that the people who worshipped the river also polluted it. People wash clothes, bathe, use soaps and detergents in the river. In Varanasi Ganga can be seen littered with worship materials like flowers, garlands, incense sticks, candles, plastic bags etc.

At Allahabad, Ganga looks smaller than Yamuna. This we found contrary to our imagination that Ganga was a huge river. But we liked Sangam (the meeting point of Ganga, Yamuna and Sarswati).

Ganga is horrible in Kanpur. It’s polluted beyond imagination. We read about Ganga as a holy river. But we feel sad to see the condition of Ganga. We could have never imagined that such a sacred river would be so polluted. We don’t understand why people throw dead bodies in the river. They should come and see that dogs and pigs eat these bodies. It’s disgusting. Fishermen, washer-men and leather industries add immensely to its pollution. Ganga in Kanpur looks bad with dark viscous water and also it smells bad. People pollute the river and they don’t care.

We are happy to see an organization, which is struggling hard to bring some changes in the society. We appreciate Eco Friends for its efforts to de-pollute Ganga by involving various stakeholders, especially children. It’s nice to see people who try to make changes. We’re happy to see Eco Friends working in villages for getting them clean water and improving their life style.

What was your imagination about Ganga before you saw the real Ganga?

We had imagined Ganga to be a clean and beautiful river.

Any message

Indians are lucky to have such a nice river with beautiful temples, ghats, and a lot of activities, festivals. You should preserve it.

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