Most of us believe the River Ganges is a symbol of purity, but how many of us actually take charge to keep it or its surroundings clean? No one!!

If we look deeply into the frame, this river is losing its fame of being called clean. High time for someone to step up, and former banker Shilpika Gautam, who has achieved her feat as an environmental warrior, is working with the same vision, NDTV reports.

Shilpika is paddle-boarding across the Ganges to spread awareness by bringing ‘Swachhta’ into the lives of the villagers and the river.

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She started paddling 3 months ago from the source – Gomukh — where the Ganges originates. Her aim is to reach out to the destination 2,500 km later at Bay of Bengal.

“We expect to finish in Ganga Sagar in the second week of January 2017 and if completed efficaciously, this will also be a world record-breaking endeavour for me – It will be the longest ever stand up paddle-boarded distance by a female in 1 single journey” –  Shilpika Gautam

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Though it’s for a noble cause, Shilpika’s sporty adventure is facing challenges that can be really tricky on the way. She needs to have constant awareness of her surroundings and should be ready to keep any troubles away.

In her ambitious project, Shilpika  is now associated with her team GangesUp in partnership with WaterAid India.

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Not only does she paddle for about 2.5 hours per day while aiming to cover 35-40 km – her daily agenda also involves taking tours in villages along the way, interacting with people and educating them about ‘Swachhta’.

When asked what inspired her to undertake such a journey (she quit a successful job in the United Kingdom and came back to India) to highlight the dismal state of our rivers, she politely replied: “An extended trip back to India in late 2015 showed me the challenging aspects of water pollution in the Ganga – with the plastic pollution component being the most visible. The extent of the problem not only left me distraught but also angry. However, it also left me wanting to learn more about the issue while indulging in a physical challenge too – at the same time I had just taken up the sport of stand-up paddle boarding. Wanting to combine the novelty of the sport with the desire to explore an imminent and serious environmental issue led to the birth of Gangessup,” says Shilpika Gautam.

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On the other hand, GangesUp serves as a medium to highlight the positive stories of the rivers and of the people living alongside on a daily basis. Their motto is to put forth the efforts of various initiations that are transforming their quality of life, one village at a time.

“From interacting with religious leaders to meeting with government bodies, to partnering with NGO’s to collecting our own anecdotal evidence via first hand interactions with villagers, we have understood that the only way to clean up our mighty river is that we should have a multi-pronged awareness, education and implementation model that involves a variety of stakeholders. That’s the only way we can improve access and awareness for cleaner, safer water,” added Shilpika Gautam.

Shilpika Gautam Paddle-boards Across The Ganges To Spread The Swachh Message
Shilpika Gautam (Pic credit: NDTV)

When they researched, the finding shocked them. Over 500 million citizens’ lives depend on the Ganges but it became one of the most polluted rivers in the world. In fact, the amount of toxins, chemicals and other dangerous bacteria found in the river are now almost 3,000 times over the safe limit set by the WHO.

So the ultimate goal is to educate the villagers on how to control the pollution and the importance of building toilets at home, keeping menstrual hygiene for girls and women in mind.

“It’s not what is in the river, but outside it too – education, empowerment and infrastructure will actually serve to improve the health of the river and the quality of lives of those depending on it – be it humans or the wildlife. My motive is just to make them aware about it and how they can save their only source of life,” added Shilpika Gautam.

Shilpika Gautam Paddle-boards Across The Ganges To Spread The Swachh Message
Villagers surrounding Shilpika Gautam (Pic credit: Instagram)

Shilpika’s latest achievement was to finish stand-up paddle-boarding in the river Shannon, the longest river in the British Isles in July this year.

Thus far, she and her team have already covered 1,850 km.

There isn’t anything a woman can’t do!! WE should all learn from Shilpika.

Feature Image Credit: Instagram

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