By Punita Bhatti and Arti M Grover
When humans travel into space hunting for indicators of life on other planets, the first thing they look for is water. Over 70% of the earth’s surface is covered by water, and it is a vital element to supporting and sustaining human life. However, only 2-3% of the water on earth is potable and can be used by humans. Considering expanding industrialization and infrastructural advancement, we will not be able to meet our basic water demands in the future unless we change course. Imagine our kids, 15 years from now, paying for water in the same way that we pay for fuel now.
Given the growing demand for water and the supply gap, water could become very expensive. When the price of water rises, it will drastically affect our economic decisions, as it is a basic necessity. Our forefathers used to tell childhood stories about playing in rivers, but this is often no longer possible for the current generation of children as many bodies of water are going dry. Have we ever wondered who is responsible for all of this? The answer is quite clear: We are all responsible.
Sehgal Foundation has been implementing integrated water management programs to help achieve water security in rural villages around the semi-arid district of Mewat in Haryana, India. The Foundation’s program provides ways to capture and store rainwater for drinking and other uses, to recharge the groundwater table, and to empower local communities to follow good water practices in order to maintain the new water infrastructures.
Sehgal Foundation has successfully tested and developed its models in areas with only 26% fresh groundwater—many villages in Mewat suffer from increasing groundwater salinity. Thus far, Sehgal Foundation has built many water structures augmenting the groundwater, including check dams, ponds, culverts, nallah bunds (stream embankments), and rainwater harvesting and wastewater recycling/disposal structures. Together, they can collect nearly 14 million kiloliters of water annually, enough to serve 271 villages that practice rain-fed agriculture or 36 villages that use water for crop irrigation. The government and other organizations have recognized the potential of these models and are adopting our models in other parts of the country. Throughout the implementation process, Sehgal Foundation always works towards empowering people through awareness-raising and capacity-building exercises. These exercises encourage villagers to take ownership and maintenance of the programs into their own hands.
Sehgal Foudation makes use of Alfaz-e-Mewat FM 107.8 MHz, the grassroots community radio in Mewat, to share and reiterate the message of water conservation. We broadcast many thought-provoking slogans, inspiring radio plays and famous water songs that touch upon many pressing issues related to water conservation. The programs call for action and share steps that can be taken to tackle the water problems.
Water has no boundaries: it is the same river that flows between nations; only the name of the river changes. I remember a popular saying in Hindi that says “Boond Boond Se Sagar Banta Hai,” which means, “Drop after drop is needed to make up the sea.” Every step of action we take towards tackling water scarcity is a step towards solving it.
Are we each individually prepared to use our own capacities to help in the effort to solve water scarcity? We look forward to your views and suggestions.