Women explorers down the Ganga

Back row (L-R): Liv Arnsen, Ann Bancroft, Cindy Jiaojiao Hui and Olfat Haider. Front row (L-R): Marcia Gutierrez and Lisa Te Heuheu. Photo courtesy Bancroft Arnesen Explore
Back row (L-R): Liv Arnsen, Ann Bancroft, Cindy Jiaojiao Hui and Olfat Haider. Front row (L-R): Marcia Gutierrez and Lisa Te Heuheu. Photo courtesy Bancroft Arnesen Explore

NEW DELHI: An all-women team of celebrated explorers from seven continents, including Indian Everester Krushnaa Patil, has set out on an over 2400 kms 55-day expedition down the Ganges River to initiate conversation and action among youngsters on the global water crisis.

Krushnaa Patil, the youngest Indian to scale Mount Everest, is part of the team led by Ann Bancroft, an honorary member of the National Women’s Hall of Fame of the US, and Norwegian Liv Arnesen, the first woman in the world to ski solo and unsupported to the South Pole.

Other team members are Olfat Haider (Israel), Cindy Jiaojiao Hu (China), Marcia Gutierrez (Chile), Kim Smith (South Africa) and Lisa te Heuheu (New Zealand), each representing water challenges faced on her continent.

The journey started at Gaumukh, the source of the Ganga on October 17, and will follow the river’s path to Kanpur, Allahabad, Varanasi and Patna, before ending near Kolkata in December.

The Ganga was chosen because of its importance in the lives of over 400 million people who depend on its waters everyday. During their expedition, the team will interact with organizations, schools and institutes to share knowledge and work to improve water conditions in the area.

Google has partnered with the team to raise awareness about the government’s National Mission for Clean Ganga project.

Patil was quoted by news outlets saying, “Apart from students, we will also focus on the women-folk we come across. Women run the households here. If we are able to change the way in which a woman thinks about the river then surely it will have an effect… As the saying goes: Educate a woman and you educate the family.”

After the Ganga expedition, the team will plan similar trips along rivers on other continents before ending the series in Antarctica. Stay tuned for updates on the team’s progress and adventures.

The Ganga expedition is the first of a seven-continent, multi-year expedition series titled ‘Access Water’. The team plans to visit each continent every few years, ending the series with a journey to Antarctica.

Patil, who in 2009 had summited Mount Everest and became the then youngest Indian woman to achieve the feat, says the Ganga is a very powerful starting point.

“Our culture has immense respect for nature and we consider the Ganga River holy. It’s perfect to start,” she says.

The team, organized by the Bancroft-Arnesen Explore (BAE) foundation, through education seeks to engage millions of youth to inspire the future leaders of the world to demand a safe and abundant world, starting with access to clean water.

Partnering BAE in this endeavor are organizations like UNESCO, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), Google, WAGGGS, Young Pioneers of China, Norwegian Embassy, Percept Profile and Tunheim.

The expedition has also lined up interactions with students. “We are not digging for problems, we are searching for solutions,” says Arnesen.

“We will engage with young students in schools and universities along the way and seek to extract ideas and solutions out of them. The solutions will be posted on yourexpedition.com and youtube,” she adds.

Bancroft says that ‘her river’, the Mississippi river, and the Ganges shared a lot of similarities. She hoped that their initiative would attract more youth all over the world.

“We have a long term vision. We hope it turns into a movement. We want young people, from all backgrounds, to come together and to co-operate for solving environmental and world problems. Water is a wonderful way for us to talk about environment. We are excited about journeying down the Ganges.

It’s intimidating; we don’t know how it will go.”

“There will be a lot of challenges. But all of us are explorers and not knowing the answers (before-hand) is okay for us,” she says.

The duo of Arnesen and Bancroft, the first women in history to sail and ski across Antarctica’s landmass – a 94-day 2747 km trek – says that the team-members were all who had “hearts to change the world”.

“Our team-members from different age groups and background working together is symbolic of what people, the world over, with passion can do together. When the last expedition of this series nears its end, we may be 75, 77 years old, but we’ll still go to Antarctica to finish it,” the duo said. -PTI

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