A letter compiled by Leo Saldanha of the Environment Support Group urging DiCaprio to withdraw his support for the campaign, also found support from 18 individuals.

95 civil society groups ask Leonardo DiCaprio to withdraw support for Cauvery Calling
news Environment Wednesday, September 25, 2019 - 13:22

After Hollywood actor and climate activist Leonardo DiCaprio expressed his support for the 'Cauvery Calling' campaign launched by Isha Foundation and headed by 'Sadhguru' Jaggi Vasudev, a total of 95 civil society groups and 18 individuals have written to him urging him to withdraw his support for the campaign.

DiCaprio, in a social media post on September 21, urged people to join the campaign - Cauvery Calling.. "India’s rivers are severely endangered with many of its smaller rivers vanishing. Join Sadhguru and the Isha Foundation in their fight to preserve the Cauvery River.  

However, a letter compiled by Leo Saldanha of the Environment Support Group urging DiCaprio to withdraw his support for the campaign, found support from 95 organisations and 19 individuals within a day. 

"It is our considered view that you may have been poorly advised, or not have had the time to personally investigate the background of the promoters of ‘Cauvery Calling’, before you embraced the programme with this message on Facebook: Indeed the first part of your message is most welcome. However, we urge you to withdraw the second part of the message, as it amounts to promoting Isha Foundations ‘Cauvery Calling’", reads the letter.  

The groups which are signatories in the letter are from across the country and included Plachimada Solidarity Committee; South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People, New Delhi; Equations, Bengaluru; Henri Tiphagne, People’s Watch, Madurai; India Climate Justice; Alternative Law Forum, Karnataka; Chennai Solidarity Group, Chennai among others. "This is not a programme that will protect Cauvery, her forests, her biodiversity, her children, and her childrens’ children. It will certainly not save Cauvery. On the contrary, support for this kind of a campaign sets a very wrong precedent", adds the letter. 

Speaking to The News Minute, Leo Saldanha says he wrote the letter and circulated it among the Coalition for Environmental Justice in India, a nationwide network of civil society and environmental groups. "Within hours, many groups and individuals endorsed the letter requesting DiCaprio to withdraw support for Cauvery Calling.. There is an urgent need to do this because it is worrying that Rs 10,000 crore from the public is being collected by misusing their faith. At the same time, public concerns are not being addressed", he said. Leo Saldanha is yet to receive a response from DiCaprio or his team. 

'Cauvery Calling' is a nationwide campaign launched by the Isha Foundation. It is focused on the Cauvery river and as part of the campaign, the foundation claims it will plant 242 crore trees along the Cauvery river under the umbrella of Rally for Rivers — another campaign previously launched by the same foundation.

In the letter compiled by Leo Saldanha, it was also stated that, "It (Cauvery Calling) comes across as a method that promotes a monoculturist paradigm of landscape restoration which people of India have rejected long ago. Besides, such a programme could create unintended and unforeseen social and ecological consequences, as planting trees in certain regions (grasslands and floodplains for instance) could result in drying up of streams and rivulets, and destruction of wildlife habitats".

A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Karnataka High Court has raised questions about how the foundation was collecting funds from the public for the campaign. This was also mentioned in the letter by environmental groups and individuals, sent to DiCaprio. 

Read: Why is Isha Foundation taking money to plant trees? Petition against 'Cauvery Calling'

The environmentalists also raised questions over the credibility of Isha Foundation. "Isha Foundation has very low credibility in conforming with Indian laws protecting human rights and environment. No less an authority than the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, a constitutional body, has reported that the foundation has built its headquarters into an elephant corridor and on land belonging to Adivasis (original inhabitants of India, who are indigenous communities)", reads the letter.

The environmentalists also invited DiCaprio to the Cauvery Basin to experience the situation on-ground first-hand. " We would like you to join our grassroots based, consultative, collective and networked efforts, to rejuvenate Cauvery. Meanwhile, we urge you to withdraw your call for support to ‘Cauvery Calling’," the letter adds.

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