Mass Production vs
Production by the Masses?
If there is anything that the world will see in the 21st
century, it will be a decline in the states management of water resources. Less than
a hundred years ago, people used to meet their own water needs, using simple, small,
environment-friendly devices. The state came along and promoted mega projects
highly-destructive technologies, which excluded people from water management. The result
is a growing water chaos across the world. Mahatma Gandhi once said, "We
do not need mass production, we need production by the masses." Nothing could be
truer in the case of water.
The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) had started its Campaign
for Peoples Water Management by publishing `Dying Wisdom. It made a simple
point: Catching rain where it falls is a simple technique. It held the Indian people in
good stead for millennia. And it can do so even in the future. The book had a good impact.
And we then went ahead to organise a conference to bring together activists, field
workers, thinkers, villagers, builders, architects, scientists, bureaucrats and
politicians who believe that water harvesting is the Emerging Wisdom rather
than Dying Wisdom. In the hope that everyone will get together to form a
The gracious presence of the Honourable President of India, Shri K R Narayanan, and
five rural water engineers turned the conference into a memorable and moving occasion.
Hectic, huge, overloaded with information and excitement. But that was the purpose of the
exercise. To get everyone involved. A Vaidyanathan, professor emeritus, Madras Institute
of Development Studies, the doyen of Indias water economists, gave us his full
attention and support in piloting the effort.
There is a tremendous strength in the idea. A few days ago, I was speaking to
schoolchildren in Delhi. The principal was saying that the sweepers are constantly
complaining about lack of water. I asked her what was the total land area of the school.
About four hectares, she replied. "It means that some 28 million litres of water
falls on your estate," I said to her. "Why dont you use it?" She was
really excited. Now I have to keep my promise in helping her start rainwater harvesting.
This is the beauty of a peoples approach. You can start on your own.
This newsletter is to remind everyone that we came together very recently, and we have
to stay together. Our very best wishes for a happy new year, one in which the rain god
will continue to bless us.