From the desk of Editor-in-Chief

Could water be at the epicenter of a global war?

Conflicts have been fought for land, oil and wealth. But could water be at the epicenter of a global war? Experts believe it could happen. People are fleeing Middle Eastern and African countries in part due to water scarcity.

Whether we like it or not, water is playing an increasing role in the way we live our lives. Fast-depleting groundwater, excess rainfall or drought, polluted or shrinking rivers and lakes, and vanishing forests and wetlands are not just things happening far away: they are manifested in the way we live our lives. Water cuts in cities, even outside summer, are now quite common, as are farmer suicides, foaming lakes and flash floods.

As a developing country, India cannot afford the risks and obstacles placed by sustained water scarcity in its path. It is high time we look at some facts and statistics that highlight the extent of India’s water crisis.

One of the most strident voices pointing out the economic aspect of the water crisis is the government’s own NITI Aayog, which has said that India could lose 6% of GDP by 2050 because of a water crisis.

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Now, in its latest Composite Water Management Index (CMWI) report, the Aayog has said that states like Kerala, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi are low performers on the index, with scores below 50. Worryingly, these four states are among the top 10 contributors to India’s economy.

With around 60 crore people—half India’s population—affected by ‘high to extreme’ water stress and the demand for water set to exceed supply by a factor of two in the next decade, this is an issue that threatens to stall the wheels of our economic progress.

In many ways, India’s water crisis is a groundwater crisis. India consumes about one-fourth of the globally available groundwater, more than the next two countries (US and China) combined. This dependence on groundwater is especially high in the farm belts of rural India.

Extreme rainfall is a challenge because it is generally associated with destruction—floods, landslides, damage to crops and infrastructure and increased erosion. For cities, such events represent lost work-days and therefore, economic losses.

Looking at the current situation, there is a need for a paradigm shift. We urgently require a transition from this ‘supply-and-supply-more water’ provision to measures which lead towards improving water use efficiency, reducing leakages, recharging/restoring local waterbodies as well as applying for higher tariffs and ownership by various stakeholders.

A recovery-based closed loop system is the need of the hour.

It is time to go back and start using our traditional practice of rainwater harvesting — catching water where it falls. Presently, India captures only eight per cent of its annual rainfall, among the lowest in the world.
About 80 per cent of the water that reaches households, leaves as waste and pollutes our waterbodies and environment. There is a huge potential in reusing and recycling this treated wastewater at least for non-potable purposes, which is cost effective.

We need to promote a decentralised approach, with key focus on water conservation, source sustainability, storage and reuse wherever possible.
It is important to understand that managing the water situation is not the job of only engineers but all stakeholders including hydrogeologists, economists, planners and most importantly, communities themselves. Locals/citizens/ communities have a huge part to play. By keeping in check our own usage and actions, we can contribute.

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Till the last drop…!

Mumbai-based 84-year-old water conservationist, Aabid Surti, also a national award-winning author and cartoonist, has saved gallons of waterby going door-to-door to fix water leakage problem. He tells Karan Bhardwaj how his micro-level effort is making national waves.

TBI: You started Drop Dead Foundation. What inspired you to initiative this?

AS: I have grown up on pavements. During my childhood, I saw people fighting over a bucket of water. My grandmother would walk for two kms to fetch one haandi (vessel) of water. Those unpleasant memories stayed with me. Over time, I became so sensitive that even an extra drip of water spilling on ground would hurt me. When I used to visit my friends, I noticed how callous they were towards water. They would not fix a leaking tap for as long as six months. ‘Ekboond se kyajaatahai…’ they would mostly shun me saying. As per estimates, one drop of water nonstop would lead to wastage of almost 1,000 litres in a month. So, I finally decided to take matter in my own hands, and started fixing taps and leakages from my own residential complex. I take a plumber and one volunteer with me and go out for this task every Sundays.

TBI: Delhi government is emulating your formula with a pilot project to deal with water leakage problem. Do you think this method could be adopted at a larger scale?

AS: I am glad that initiatives taken at a small level are fetching attention across the country. I was invited by the Delhi government last month where they flagged off this pilot project. They are sending volunteers to the doors of the people to sensitise them about water leakage, and they will also fix water leakages on a complimentary basis. My whole purpose of taking this endeavour is to show people that big results could only be achieved when all of us take responsibility of our habitats. Many senior citizens are sitting idle at their homes. I always encourage them to participate in saving environment. They can plant trees, promote cleanliness and ensure there’s no water wastage in their areas.

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TBI: Your posters on water conservation at religious sites and rituals have drawn attention. How did you think of using religion to promote your message?

AS: I have been invited to deliver ‘talks’ to various platforms. Over time, I realised that only a handful of people from the audience would take some action on water conservation. There was a need to reach out to a larger audience. I chanced upon a book where I discovered how yogis and rishis would use religion to disseminate their message. Like they preached to have a plant of Tulsi at home… which is good for nature as well as health. So, I also decided to make positive use of religion. I did my first experiment in my area which is a Muslim ghetto at Mira Road, Mumbai. I drew a poster where Muhammad is appealing followers to save water. I used a real quote that read, ‘Do not waste water even if you were at a running stream.’ This poster was placed at around 40 mosques where Muslims practiseVaju (act of cleaning before going for Namaz). Would you believe Maulanas told me that they were able to save 80 per cent of water wastage? I did another experiment at Ganesh Mahotsavas. Posters with Ganesha asking ‘Where would you submerge me if there is no water?’ had a great impact on people. Even local administration asked me to provide those posters to create further awareness. I now want to connect with churches and other religious sites.

TBI: With several Indian cities citing water scarcity, how do you analyse present water crisis?

AS: We are in a major soup. There is no tomorrow without water. Aagabhilagihai… kalkuankhodne se kuchnahihoga… Water scarcity might lead to major tensions in the world. There could be unrest or riots due to mass migration of people towards areas which have water bodies. The Indian government should declare war on water conservation.

TBI: Do you think the government is doing enough?

AS: No, the government doesn’t look sincere. If they wish, they can take effective measures overnight. But the administration is in deep slumber. They are struck with greed and corruption. Multiple governments discussed rivers inter-link project… but only on paper. This could be a boon to farming besides conserving river water. What is happening to the government’s flagship programme to save rivers? Save Ganga? They do cosmetic clean-up now and then… and expect a turnaround in the situation. For several years, thousands of crores have gone down the drains to save Ganga but there is no result as yet. In Mumbai, where rainwater harvesting is mandatory for all new buildings, people are flouting laws in broad daylight. But there’s no end to corruption. What are municipal corporations doing?

Yes, the Prime Minister is taking initiatives but one man cannot end all of this. There has to be collective effort at all levels.

TBI: The Film Division has shot a special documentary on your work on water conservation. Can you tell us about that?

AS: I received a call from the Film Division of the government some time back. They informed that they wanted to make a short film on my work. The documentary was shot last month and is in post production phase right now. I think it is going to be of 15 minutes. They have captured my visits to the people’s houses, and how I convince them to save water. The film will be broadcast in India as well as abroad.

TBI: Your videos are going viral online. Are you content with the attention?

AS: I never cared for money. I have run this campaign on my own money for several years. Now, God has become my fundraiser. I didn’t have funds when I first decided to initiate this. All of sudden, I received a cheque of Rs 1 lakh from Uttar Pradesh Hindi Sansthan for my contribution to literature. That kept me going. Then Maharashtra government offered me Rs 50,000 cash prize with Lifetime Achievement Award. I was stunned when a group in London organised a crowd funding campaign for me. Now acclaimed personalities like Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan and Anand Mahindra post my work online. I read that even actor Gulshan Grover roamed on the streets of Mumbai with a team of plumbers to fix water leakage problem. This gives me a lot of satisfaction.

TBI: Then why don’t you consider growing beyond one-man team?

AS: I don’t wish to start a big NGO with hundreds of people. I just have to show people that if I can do this, they too can. This is my answer to people who say, ‘Mere akele se kyahoga’. When you attempt good, only good and positive people join you. And it gives you everything that one would crave for. However, I would like big corporate houses to come forward and take poster campaigns ahead. If needed, I am ready to work for them for free. This way, we can reach out to the whole of India.

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The Indian Umbrella of Water Management

By Shriya Agarwal

In a country as diverse as India, the ideas needed to deal with its issues require customization and diversification to cater to the varied population. An umbrella can prevent anyone from standing under it from pouring rain or scorching sun but not without the ability of the people standing under it to accommodate one another.

Umbrella’s canopy signifies India’s government trying to keep its citizens as protected as possible; its ‘short and long ribs’ are policies and good governance, and its ‘shaft’ represents the people of India. The government and the people together make the umbrella, which in turn protects them. Failure of any affects the other.

With 18% of the world’s population but only 4% of the world’s renewable water resources and 2.4% of the world’s land area, management of resources has always been pivotal to India; all the more now given the growing population and factors like urbanization, globalization, and changing lifestyles; also, inefficient use, wastage, mismanagement, and pollution of water (Source: India’s Water Policy 2012).

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When we think of water problems in coastal cities we tend to take our imagination mostly to floods, not droughts. But, Chennai’s drought situation which triggered due to deficient monsoon rainfall earlier this year, upset everyone; polluted rivers and unplanned construction were contributing factors. Taps went waterless and the families had to rely on alternative water sources such as distant, unreliable public water pumps, and costly private water tankers. For those who could not afford the same, hope dried up. Water became a mere commodity whereas it was supposed to be each individual’s right. Was it truly a water crisis or water mismanagement? Some elements in Chennai’s umbrella clearly didn’t work and other Indian cities are not far behind; loopholes continue to exist (Source: Wikipedia).

With Jal Shakti Ministry’s Jal Shakti Abhiyan we have some hope as long as the government and citizens go full throttle. The focus needs to shift from inter-regional, inter-departmental, inter-state, intra-state, and inter-sectoral conflicts of interests to the bigger water problem that India is grappling with.

At present, our government, along with environment-conscious organizations & NGOs, is working hard towards managing water-related issues by implementation of strategies, laws, by-laws, and policies like mapping of rivers and aquifers, testing of soil and water quality, conducting water audits, sealing of illegal borewells, revival of traditional water bodies like Johads for increasing groundwater recharge, afforestation, building of biodiversity parks, identification of catchment areas and recharge zones, strengthening of community water-management by empowering villagers, ensuring implementation of best-practices like drip-irrigation & planting of water-efficient crops for farmers, encouraging hydroponics, making safe drinking water available to the last mile person and ensuring food security, and utilizing technology to save water, all by following a holistic and inter-disciplinary approach.

The main challenges include finding alternate solutions, improving effluent waste management, dealing with salinity intrusion in groundwater aquifers & chemical-laden water seeping, carrying out desalination of sea-water through reverse osmosis which is expensive and financing similar water-related projects, dealing with encroachments and blocked recharge zones, mobilizing individuals and community to take action, and preventing health hazards.

Some parts of India are still struggling to protect areas rich in flora and fauna due to people who don’t understand the gravity of the situation and keep exploiting water inequitably due to personal interests but the government is taking steps to sensitize builders, Residential Welfare Associations (RWAs), and residents about water conservation and waste management. As a result, many are installing Rain Water Harvesting (RWH) systems and Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs), segregating grey and black water, choosing semi-paved grounds over paved grounds for parking, fixing leaks and installing aerators, and planting native trees.

As citizens we must regard our water bodies and not pollute them; reduce our actual and virtual water consumption. A simple act of not indulging in frivolous shopping sprees and purchasing only what is meaningful and really needed can reduce our water footprint significantly. Help your government help you. Do your bit to open the closed umbrella!

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NGO initiatives to conserve the Blue Gold

By Vidya K

Shortage of rainfall, falling water table and continuous depletion of water have turned the blue gold into a scarce resource. Fast rate of depletion over the past years have brought the planet to a point where the warning alarm is blowing full throttle.

There are two ways of looking at the water scarcity crisis in our country. One is when drought like conditions cause water scarcity on a regular basis, like in the Thar desert. The other is when global warming and release of green house gases lead to weather variations resulting in rainfall decline. Both have the potential of severe consequences on water security and the future of the people.

While the government has been trying to address the issue with the help of a plethora of rules and regulations, there are NGOs doing excellent ground work for the cause, thus contributing immensely towards making tremendous difference. Jal Bhagirathi Foundation (JBF), WaterAid, and the Force have been doing yeoman service to create awareness and build necessary water infrastructure to address the problem of water scarcity.

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Water Scarcity is for real

Water scarcity encompasses host of issues some of which have now become part of the village talk in India. JBF could talk to ordinary farmers, women and wage earners about scarcity of safe drinking water, brackish, highly saline ground water unsuitable for human consumption, loss of natural water sheds, and falling water tables show the extent of crisis and its effect to the common people.

Grassroot pressure

The demand for grassroot level intervention came from villagers themselves in Rajasthan. A public meeting was called and it resolved to carry out public consultations in nearby villages. This indicated the popular concern to save water bodies in rural areas of India. The JBF provided an organizational framework and spearhead the effort to revive traditional technology and apply modern techniques to provide sustainable water security in the Thar Desert.

Force, is more into creating awareness about natural resources across the nation. The organization focuses on ensuring adoption of measures to prevent depletion of resources. Land, water and air- all three are in trouble due to toxity and the warming of the earth. Water security is the major focus of the Force. The strategy to address the problem is to revive water bodies program to solve the water crisis. While doing so, baseline survey of Water assets is undertaken to increase awareness and move towards end goal of water security for the community.

Volunteering and NGOs

Volunteering is the major aspect of addressing the challenge of water scarcity. JBF has taken lead in creating a network of village level volunteers and resource base of professionals. “We have 20,000 village level volunteers who are into planning, implementing, and monitoring development interventions,” shares an official. Ours is a rights-based approach by mobilizing communities, which empowers the community as they are vulnerable to water crisis.

There is need of framework to implement intervention programs which includes a hierarchical system of decision making. The Jal sabha at the village level, the Jal Samiti at the block level, Jal Parishad at the organizational level and finally the Jal Sansad including all the stakeholders strive towards bringing sustainable development in the region.

NGO intervention programs

In the developing sustainable development strategy, the local level intervention plays an important role in meeting the water challenge. JBF has created an enabling environment for the desert communities of the Marwar region of the Thar Dessert. The intervention explores the existing methods to provide drinking water access to humans as well as animals. The Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam as the traditional Indian saying goes, virtually leveraged through village institutions. The community mobilized at the village, taluka and district level, expands participation in conservation program and also creates an atmosphere of transparency, participation and accountability, through a process of networking and advocacy.

Impact of the intervention

In analyzing the impact of the NGO efforts to reach out to the community, the major aim of the organization is to provide water security. “Water security’ means every micro unit has enough sustainable water supplies to take care of its basic drinking, food, sanitation and hygiene needs for all Force emphasizes.

JBF’s intervention has started to yield results. The UNDP report indicates that water distressed months have been reduced and there has been 140% reduction in expenditure on purchase of water. This has substantially reduced poverty in the region. Marwar region with a population of 550,000 people and livestock have found increase in water availability from 4 months in a year to 10 months. The Foundation has also been successful in initiating structural reforms such as maintenance of water resources and pricing of water.

Force Group has been instrumental in recharging the water bodies nationwide. Assessment of their work shows that its programs have saved or recharged 30 million litres of water, thus helping 1.5 million Indians through local interventions.

The efforts from the NGOs show the way to conserve water bodies and rebuild water resources in hinterlands of India. Water crisis is real and the challenge cannot be solved by the government alone. The public –private partnership with the assistance of NGO can make a big difference to the lives of rural people who are dependent on farming and animal husbandry.

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Development Happenings

By The Bridge India

Mahatma Awards 2019

The annual Mahatma Awards are given to individuals from different organizations from corporations to foundations, nonprofits, ngos and to charities from around the globe in acknowledgement of their impactful work within these organizations and otherwise.

Mahatma Awards2019 was announced on 1 October at Crown Plaza Hotel, Gurgaon.. The award is named in honor of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Amit Sachdeva, a true Gandhian and a Social Entrepreneur is the founder of the Mahatma Awards.

Mahatma Award for Lifetime Achievement for Leadership in Corporate Social Responsibility & Business Sustainability 2019 was conferred upon Rajashree Birla, Chairperson, Aditya Birla Centre for Community Initiatives and Rural Development and Ratan N Tata, Chairman Emeritus, Tata Group.

Mahatma Awards for Leadership in Corporate Social Responsibility 2019 was given to

  • Vinita Singhania, Vice Chairman & Managing Director, JK Lakshmi Cement Limited
  • Shallu Jindal, Director, Jindal Steel & Power, Co-Chairperson, JSPL Foundation
  • Dr. Priti Adani, Chairperson, Adani Foundation
  • Sir Dr. Huz, (Huzaifa Khorakiwala), Executive Director, Wockhardt Ltd., Trustee & CEO, Wockhardt Foundation
  • Upasana Kamineni Konidela, Vice Chairperson, Apollo Foundation
  • Suman Minda, President and Chairperson, Suman Nirmal Minda, Charitable Trust

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Few awardees under social good were GMR Foundation, Khushboo, PwC India Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, while Rajiv Williams of Jindal Stainless Limited received award under individual category for excellence in CSR.

Annual Senior Care Conclave

Association of Senior Living in India, CII and Help age India partnered for the event wherein senior professionals from the industry brainstormed upon concerns and way forward related to elder care in the country.

The 2nd Annual Senior Care Conclave was held on October 1 at the India Habitat Centre New Delhi. Ageing in the New Times: Inequalities, Involvement and Policies was the topic of discussions and deliberations during various sessions held throughout the day. ‘Economic and demographic Outlook on Ageing’ was the first session followed by ‘Social Enterprise & Social Innovation: Future Growth Enablers in Elder Care.’ ‘Social Enterprise & Social Innovation: Future Growth Enablers in Elder Care’and ‘Access to capital markets and innovative finance to improve liquidity in senior care’ were the sessions that followed subsequently. The last session was upon ‘Voices and Concerns of the Elderly.’ Elder care is still an area of opportunity in India and efforts from the stake holders should be directed at building and strengthening robust ecosystem in terms of policy , delivery , best practice accesses to finance , innovation, employment & skilling, the forum emphasized.

Seminar on DECODING Social Return On Investment

IMC chamber of Commerce along with SPJain Institute of management jointly organised a full day seminar on DECODING SROI (social return on investment). Delegates comprising of Corporate representatives, Foundations and NGOs participated in the seminar.Besides students from various Business schools in Mumbai also participated in the event .

Many large Corporate and Government agencies expect to measure the Impact on the investment they make towards a community or a cause. Jignesh Thakkar, associate Director on Sustainability and CSR Advisory of KPMG along with Prof Rukaiya Joshi conducted a MASTER CLASS on the subject for the first two hours, thus unraveling the concept.

Ashish Vaid,President IMC spoke on the subject and confirmed that IMC was committed to take this further. Ramesh Daswani (chairman of the CSR committee of IMC) along with Dr Vivek Mendonsa (Convenor of this program) shared with the august audience the role and responsibility of the committee in the development sector,

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Corporates boost India’s gumption to tackle its Water Crisis

By Sandeep Datta

As various Indian cities hogged the headlines this past summer due to water crisis, it highlighted the scale of work that the country needs to carry out to survive a repeat. Away from the government, it seemed that the corporate can also play a key role through its Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives.
The recent Indian summer had offered a glimpse of the future to come,when an acute water shortage in southern India necessitated a special train to deliver 2.5 million litres of water to the parched city of Chennai in July.
Ironically, within a gap of a few weeks the country witnessed floods in 13 States of the country, with Bihar, Karnataka, and Maharashtra being the worst hit. The heaviest monsoon in last 25 years left over 1,600 people dead from June and October this year.
The country witnessed so much of natural water getting wasted but hardly any visible measure was in place to prevent it, showcasing a colossal collapse of existing systems. Thanks to some private organizations and NGOs that finally helped. But did we derive any lessons for near future?

The Water Crisis

India’s concerns and willingness to make giant steps to mitigate natural resources related challenges was prominently visible recently during the UN Climate Action Summit in New York.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi opted to underline his government’s ambitious ‘Jal Jeevan Mission’ for water conservation, rainwater harvesting and for the development of water resources. Addressing the global community, he said India will spend $50 billion on the project in the coming years.
A group of environmental experts have said water crisis was already existent in the country and hailed plans of such a mammoth investment of $50 billion for water conservation.
Some of the experts, however, said all this indicates the main message: The Water crisis is real and existent in India and now requires urgent attention.

Media’s role in general awareness

Viewing the worst-ever water crisis India is faced with, a media organisation in recent past launched a public awareness drive. It aimed to fundamentally change the way the general public uses and conserves water.
To ensure sustainable water usage and conservation remain at the very top of public consciousness, the Network18 media group launched ‘Mission Paani’ initiative to facilitate conversation.
While mentioning of water related challenges that the country is faced with, there is a strong need to understand how some of the Corporates are making a difference in this direction.

Corporates making a splash

As a corporate, Asian Paints a most prominent brand in the country in terms of paints, has also been making its contribution in a major way. Though the primary thrust areas for Asian Paints’ CSR initiatives are — Health and Hygiene, Education, Enhancing Vocational Skills, its initiatives towards water preservation and conservation hold vital significance.
The company has set up effluent treatment plants at its manufacturing plants which recovers the treated water so that it is used in production. It has also installed organic waste converter at its plants for converting the waste into manure.
The company’s all plants have managed to achieve ‘zero industrial discharge’ capability. Some of the innovative initiatives of the company leading to green productivity include bulk storage which reduces wastage, solvent resolve recovery plants and reverse osmosis.
JK Tyre’s projects have been launched in the country’s underdeveloped rural areas towards changing the socio-economic structures of communities in many backward pockets of India.
The company’s community development initiatives can be mainly classified as the ones related to education, water conservation, health, and livelihoods, wherein the emphasis is laid upon empowering communities and mainstreaming them in development process.
JK Tyre & Industries was conferred with Best Practices Awards on Sustainable Development Goals by United Nation Global Compact Network, India (UNGCNI) for its exemplary CSR initiative — enabling access to clean drinking water, water conservation and women empowerment in Rajasthan’s Kankroli district.
The Outreach group has provided sustainable drinking water solutions to 13 hamlets. As many as 13 water tanks having a maximum capacity of up to 10,000 litres have been set up wherein beneficiaries themselves tackle the entire operation and maintenance works. 10 check dams constructed under ‘Jal Swavlamban Abhiyan’ of the Rajasthan Government, bringing a large acreage under irrigation and benefiting over 4,000 people. It has also helped a large number of animals to have rounded the year drinking water.
Roca which isoriginally Spanish manufacturer of bathroom products handsover a project to the village administration. It trains them explaining the reasons behind understanding hygiene as important and ways to maintain it.
Its projects include building sanitation units focusing in government schools in rural and semi urban areas, and constructing individual household toilets. It also has skill development program for plumbers and the company is also involved in ensuring water access to country’s remote villages.
The company started “We Are Water Foundation”as part of its CSR initiative. It aims to promote public awareness while motivating debate among the public and to enable the equitable development and sustainable management of the world’s water resources.
After understanding the persisting water situation in the country and its scale of challenge, one tends to think if it is feasible to remain dependent on government initiatives or be inspired as corporate to make some difference. With some Indian corporatesalready working to offer a better future, perhaps there is need to derive to join hands as a society and come forward for a better tomorrow.

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“The momentum & gain of the recent progress in WaSH need to be sustained”

WaterAid has been working towards clean water, reliable toilets and good hygiene since 1981 and has empowered 25.8 million people with clean water and 25.1 million people with reliable toilets. Vikas Kataria, Director- Resource Mobilization at WaterAid India speaks to The Bridge India upon various aspects of Water Sanitation and Hygiene sustainability.

TBI: What is the drive behind your two key campaigns of this year ‘Informed Product Choice& Disposal’ and the ‘Saviour Chefs.’

VK: On Menstrual Hygiene Day (May 28) this year, WaterAid India launched a brief report ‘Menstrual Hygiene Management: Informed Product Choice and Disposal’ to create awareness regarding the menstrual product landscape in India for women and girls to start making an informed choice as per their needs.
WaterAid India believes that menstrual hygiene interventions in India should build awareness on sustainable menstrual hygiene practices. This will have implications for health of users, safety and dignity of sanitation workers and the environment. Informed product choice enables girls and women to choose a safe menstrual hygiene product according to their needs and comfort, their ability to pay, and the context in which they live and experience menstruation.

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A simple act of hand washing with soap at critical times like after using a toilet and before eating and cooking is recognised as a highly cost-effective public health intervention, having the potential to significantly reduce disease burden. That’s why the campaign, ‘The Saviour Chefs’ where 3 celebrity chefs highlight how a simple habit of hand washing can help save millions of lives. We had three Saviour Chefs on board – Chef Saransh Goila, Chef Harpal Sokhi and Chef Pankaj Bhadouria each powered with the ‘Saving Plate’, the most unique plate that brings attention to hand washing. Being a plate, it intervenes at the most relevant time and reminds a person to wash their hands before they begin to eat. The design on each plate is a beautiful art inspired from different deadly bacteria and viruses that are transmitted through dirty hands.
All three chefs use a unique recipe, the recipe for change, the recipe for disaster and the recipe for health to educate people about the importance of washing hands and hence prevent them from falling victim to diseases like diarrhoea. We collaborated with chefs as food is very big in India and Indians enjoy their food eating with hands especially when feeding our little kids. So we collaborated with some of the most popular chefs to make sure that this message reached as many people as possible.

TBI: How do you view the Government’s declaration of India being ‘Open Defecation Free’ country?

VK: WaterAid India is appreciative of the dramatic progress seen with regards to sanitation in the past five years. However, the momentum and gains need to be sustained along with a greater focus around the entire sanitation value chain. We believe that going forward, focus on key five aspects: last mile inclusion, retrofitting, Fecal Sludge Management (FSM), Solid Liquid Waste Management (SLWM) and water-sanitation linkages would be critical.

TBI: How successful has been your experience of working with communities in rural and urban areas through partners so far?

VK:Our partners are our extended arms. Due to their enriching experience of working with communities at the grassroots level, they bring great value to our programs and complement our body of work at the community level. This model has been very successful both in rural and urban context.

TBI: How distinct is your approach from the Government’s mission and methodologies in enabling masses to access clean drinking water, hygiene, and toilets?

VK:WaterAid India believes in an integrated approach towards WaSH (water, sanitation and hygiene) sustainability. Communities sit at the heart of our work – all the solutions are created by not only considering community’s requirements but by working with them closely to ensure their full participation and ownership. Excluded and marginalized communities are central to all our processes and decisions. We strengthen the mandated institutions particularly local governments helping them to deliver on their roles. We believe in sustainable solutions from the technologies we promote to develop the skills of people, local institutions and governments.

TBI: What are the key challenges that your organization usually comes across despite being committed to bring such a vital transformation in public life?

VK: Along with other challenges, there are programmatic challenges such as

  • Attention to changing behaviors
  • Clarifying role of state and private sector and unleashing the entrepreneurial spirit
  • Regulation/ legal frameworks
  • Multiple institutions responsible for different functions with often weak or blurred accountability
  • Political commitment to sustainable change

Other challenges include

  • Scale of projects available funding and donor priorities
  • Limited public investment
  • Selective CSR tasks along
  • Short-term money spending
  • Geographical bias of donors – backyard preference syndrome
  • Absence of long-term commitment and focus in development projects

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