Mass Production vs. Production by the Masses
CSE Conference on the potential of water harvesting
Catching Water for the President


Real power to the people
Hydrological Data Anyone?
The Government on Ground Water






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Vol. 1                                    No. 1                              February 1999

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 state’s 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 People’s 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 powerful network.

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 India’s 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 don’t 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 people’s 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.

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Anil Agarwal