People fight back

Delhi Harvesting

Centre goes for decentralisation


Enhancing public understanding

Initiating solutions

Spreading the good word

Youth for action

Agents of change


A quest for water

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  No. 4 

August 2001

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Enhancing public understanding

Water is wealth. Rain is the primary source of all water. If we catch rainwater where it falls, water scarcity can be avoided. Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a New Delhi-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) is consistently promoting this message to make rainwater harvesting a national mass-based movement. As part of their advocacy programme, they recently released an edited
volume titled, Making Water Everybody’s Business: Practices and Policy of Water Harvesting in Udaipur, Thiruvanathapuram, Madurai, Chennai, Pune and Chandigarh.

This book supplements CSE’s earlier publication titled, Dying Wisdom: Rise, Fall and Potential of India’s Traditional Water Harvesting Systems. It has over 90 papers, which document people’s traditions, practices and initiatives on community-based water harvesting from across the country as well as from Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Southeast Asia, Japan and Germany. The focus of these writings is on documenting  people’s initiatives in harvesting and conserving rainwater, through community-led management systems. These systems provide us with solutions that are effective, cheap and easy to maintain.

Udaipur, Rajasthan

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Balwant Singh Mehta releasing the book in Udaipur, Rajasthan

On July 10, 2001, the book was released in a one-day workshop on rainwater harvesting, held at Rajasthan College of Agriculture, Udaipur. Balwant Singh Mehta, a 102 year old freedom fighter, social activist, member of the first parliament of India and former minister of Rajasthan released the book. The function was jointly organised by CSE and Udaipur-based NGOs namely, Jheel Sanrakshan Samiti (JSS) and Bhartiya Lok Kala Mandal (BLKM). Anil Agarwal, chairperson CSE, in his inaugural address laid emphasis on the following issues:

dot.gif (88 bytes)Both rural and urban areas could become self-reliant in meeting their water-related needs by reviving their indigenous rainwater systems. He informed that about 15,000 villages, which are mostly located in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh have gained self-reliance in meeting their minimum water needs, by using only about one to two hectares of their land for rainwater harvesting.

dot.gif (88 bytes)Their is an urgent need to improve people’s knowledge on how to sustainably utilise the benefits of rainwater harvesting and conservation. 

dot.gif (88 bytes)While emphasising on the need to evolve a partnership between the   state and society, he commended the initiatives taken by the government of Madhya Pradesh. 

dot.gif (88 bytes)He said that as long as  large-scale irrigation projects  were not supplemented with community-built rainwater harvesting structures in the villages, their development should not be opposed.

While recollecting his childhood memories, O P Saini, irrigation commissioner, Udaipur observed that the trend of overextraction of groundwater began with the arrival of electricity and private tubewells in his village. He gave hope to the participants by saying that these mistakes are being recognised and efforts are being made to rectify them. In the past one year, about 50 per cent of the works, implemented by his department in the area were to improve the groundwater table.

The workshop also included a two-hour training session on urban and rural rainwater harvesting techniques. The members of Udaipur’s jal biradari passed a resolution, opposing the state government’s order to demolish the johad in Lava ka Baas village, Alwar district, Rajasthan. The workshop concluded with a presentation of the puppet show and folk-play on rainwater conservation.

Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala
On July 16, 2001, T M Jacob, irrigation minister of Kerala released the book during the one-day seminar on State water policy: perspectives and strategies for its implementation, in Thiruvanathapuram. CSE and Indian Water Resources Society, Calicut sponsored the seminar. The irrigation department, government of Kerala and Centre for Water Resources Development and Management, Kozhikode undertook the responsibility of organising it. This was a crucial meet, as Kerala is among the first few states to formulate its policy on water, yet many of its regions have not benefited. For instance, the venue of this meet was located in the city, where water is mainly supplied by the tankers of the Kochi Corporation of Kerala. This function gave an invaluable opportunity to the water experts for addressing various issues.

Madurai, Tamil Nadu
On July 17, 2001, the book was released in the Madurai District Tank Farmers’ Mahasabha meeting, held at P T Rajan Mandram, Madurai. The meeting was organised by Madurai-based organisation, Dhan Foundation (DF) District Tank Farmers Federation (MDTFF) and CSE. While introducing the book, Anil Agarwal, chairperson CSE, emphasised the importance of rooftop rainwater harvesting and preservation of existing waterbodies in making cities self-reliant in meeting their needs. Though he justified the state government’s decision of drawing water from the rural areas to meet city’s demand in exceptional circumstances, he also cautioned the participants against relying solely on such measures, which would simply reduce the cities to the status of ‘water parasites’.

Chennai, Tamil Nadu
On July 21, 2001, a half-day workshop on rainwater harvesting was organised by CSE and the Rotary Inner Wheel Club. Rotarian Jeyakumar, a builder by profession and an active promoter of rainwater harvesting took all efforts in organising the workshop. During this workshop, two books published by CSE and a compact disc (CD) prepared by Jeyakumar were released by Rotary Governor R Ganapathi. The books released included CSE’s new book on water, Making Water Everybody’s Business: Practice and Policy of Water Harvesting and Tanks of South India, edited by eminent irrigation economist A Vaidyanathan and published by CSE. The CD on rainwater harvesting explains how rainwater harvesting could be implemented in different buildings.

Speaking on the occasion the CSE staffer informed about the book and how Chennai and Tamil Nadu serve as models to be followed for adopting rainwater harvesting. The Rotary Governor informed about the efforts of the Rotary Club in creating awareness on rainwater harvesting. The club is also cleaning several tanks in the city.

This book release function has been able to meet its objectives. As Jeyakumar informs, “My phone has not stopped ringing after the workshop. I am getting a whole lot of requests for implementing rainwater harvesting.”

Pune, Maharashtra

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The book is released in Madurai District Tank Farmers Mahasabha meeting

On July 31, 2001, M S Swaminathan, an eminent agriculturist, released the book in a seminar organised by CSE and Sakal publications in Pune, which was attended by people from all over Maharashtra. The 1,500 capacity hall was fully packed. Speaking on the occasion, Swaminathan suggested that  “Landless labourers and unemployed people could be employed for water conservation works, undertaken as the employment guarantee scheme. The excess 65 million tonnes of country’s foodgrain stock could be distributed as part of their payment.” This would ensure no one goes without food, while creating unique ‘water banks’, in the country. Rainwater harvesting can significantly reduce poverty.  Sunita Narain, director CSE, supported his argument. She said,  “ About 28 per cent of once starving families at Ralegan Siddhi in Parner taluka have been able to raise their monthly income to Rs 40,000 after Anna Hazare undertook watershed development projects here.” Popatrao Pawar, who was instrumental in transforming his village, Hivare Bazar,   supported this viewpoint, “Six years down the line the focus on water prosperity has changed the face of the average villager. Our annual turnover is more than Rs five crore today from what we produce, and, where we had drought earlier, we now have water.” IWWA also released a booklet, Vision and framework 2025 on the occasion.

The book was released in Chandigarh by the governor of Punjab and Lieutenant General of Chandigarh, General (retd) J F R Jacob on August 24, 2001. The function was jointly organised by  CSE and YUVSATTA, a Chandigarh-based NGO.

While releasing the book, Jacob cautioned the audience about the looming water crisis. Sharing CSE’s viewpoint he said, “Water is life and to address the issue effectively we have to harvest rainwater, use it for recharge and recycle too.” The governor shared examples of effective rainwater harvesting initiatives in rural and urban India. He emphasised the need to replicate such interventions in order to combat the growing threat.

The CSE staffer shared the history and objectives of CSE’s water campaign. The case studies from the book were referred to highlight the accomplishments of rainwater harvesting in rural and urban areas. According to the CSE staffer, “The book adopts a comprehensive approach of disseminating information with regard to rural, urban and the state’s initiative in water management.”

CSE’s message is simple: water is available and just needs to be tapped, not by academicians or engineers, but by the local community, irrespective of where they reside or what they do. These functions are strengthening the people’s understanding, resolve and efforts to sustainably conserve rainwater.

Copyright CSE  Centre for Science and Environment