Woman paddleboarding the River Ganges to spread an important message
There is currently a lone figure paddling their way across the River Ganges and spreading a very important message to the residents of villages and towns lining the mighty waterway.
That figure is Shilpika Gautam, a former banker and current environmental warrior who is attempting to raise awareness about the state of rivers in the country and ‘Swachhta’, also known as the Clean India Mission.
Her adventure started 3 months ago in Gomukh, where the Ganges originates, and will end 2500km later at The Bay of Bengal. Although her cause is a noble one, it is a treacherous journey that will throw up a number of challenges.
She paddles for around 2.5 hours every day and tries to cover 35-40km in that time, with Gangessup and WaterAid India supporting her along the way.
But what made Shilpika, who had a successful banking job here in the UK, up sticks and move back to India? She said the following of her decision:
“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.”
The aim of Gangessup is to use the sport to highlight the positives from this river – the challenges that the people living along the river face on a daily basis and how efforts are transforming their quality of life.
Over 500 million people depend on the Ganges for life itself, yet it is one of the most polluted rivers in the world. The amount of chemicals, toxins and harmful bacteria found in the river is nearly 3000 times over the safe limit set by the World Health Organisation.
When Shilpika and her top stop at villages along the Ganges, they aim to educate people on river population and how they can control it, focussing on issues of water pollution.
“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 can they save their only source of life,” added Shilpika.
It is expected that the team will finish in Ganga Sagar in the second week of January 2017, and if completed, it will also be a world record breaking trip. It will be the longest ever stand up paddle-boarded distance by a female in a single journey!
We wish Shilpika the best of luck in her journey and admire her efforts to raise awareness around such a serious subject. If she has inspired you to start your own paddleboarding journey, why not take a look at our range of SUP boards for sale, including rigid and inflatable SUP boards.