Sunday, 26 April 2020

Dr. Rajendra Singh, 'Water Conservationist' who lit up the lives of Rajasthani villagers, India



Dr. Rajendra Singh, Water man of India. godofsmallthing.com
johad, Rajasthan sandrp in
In the last one decade or so much emphasis given to water conservation by many countries, in particular India, the second most populous country in the world.  Water conservation implies strategies, new laws and implementation of new methods  to sustain,  manage  and protect  natural resources of fresh water  to meet the current and future human requirements. the parameters vary - population increase  industrial growth, agriculture etc. Water conservation has become a ''Mantra'' in developing  as well as developed countries because by 2025, we will feel the pinch  as the water stress will be on the increase in conjunction with population and industrial growth.    
alamy in.
It is quite amazing a trained Ayurvedic doctor  from Uttar Pradesh in the 1980s became a visionary and gave up his medical profession and became a full fledged  water conservationist in the state of Rajasthan  to bring peace and happiness to thousands of families. In this respect, he became a maverick  and chose a mission  that gave him self-satisfaction  and was beneficial to millions of people. Dr. Rajendra Singh's saga of water conservation efforts brings out a strong  message to us - ''you can succeed in any endeavor if you've a  strong will power and  persistent efforts  to successfully complete a mission regardless of setbacks that may crop up midway''.
Armed with a degree in Ayurvedha  medical sciences Dr. Rajendra Singh in the 1980s served village  the community in Rajasthan, India and  cured their eye problems and night blindness  Being young and energetic, upon staying in the Rajasthani village for a while,  he realized the villagers  there and elsewhere in this semi arid area had no access to potable water. The women had to walk  to far off places in the hot sun to bring water for the  family's daily requirements. Countless women from families in the remote villages daily had to go though the rigors of bringing drinking water, walking all the way up and down. There are no community wells close by.
At the age of  28 in 1985, being a native of Uttar Pradesh  and son of a wealthy landlord, he wanted to do something for the villagers to get enough water for their daily needs and to mitigate their problem. Water is the most essential thing for their survival there and there is an urgent need to address the issue.  Without any hesitation, he quit his government job (employed in Jaipur), left his family  and settled in a small village in  Rajasthan’s Alwar district. This and other adjacent districts are water-stressed, receiving less than 650 mm rain fall a year brought by SW Monsoon.  His initial idea was to start clinics  to get the attention of the people and was serious about applying the age-old traditional technology used by our forefathers to get water. This will transform the mundane lives of the people here and bring them hope and confidence to take care of their livelihood.   
johad in Rajasthan, .indiatimes.com

He, with ample support from  four people from a non profit organization called  Tarun Bharat Sangh (it traces its roots to the University of Rajasthan), focused his attention to the  hinter land. Working hard with dedication and proper planning, Dr. Rajendra brought water back to some 1,000 villages.  He set out to build johads, or traditional earthen dams. Two decades after Rajendra Singh arrived in Rajasthan, 8,600 johads and other structures to collect water had been built,” according to  the Stockholm International Water Institute, that on March 20, 2015  awarded  him the ''2015 Stockholm Water Prize''(sometimes described as the Nobel prize for water). Earlier in 2001 Singh was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for his distinguished contribution to water management in the semiarid region of Rajasthan. 

Dubbed as India’s “water man” Rajendra Singh, in the early days,  had no idea about  johad, nor  did he know the value of water conservation and its impact on the society.  Starting out with a poor knowledge of water and its conservation methods, over a short period of time in the area of water management he  reached a dizzy height  which other experts can not think of.  It shows his sheer power and commitments to his cherished mission. A chance meeting with Mangu Meena and Nathi Bhalai in the Aravalli mountain area  was a blessing in disguise and they introduced him to the johad, a large crescent-shaped dam made of earth and rocks to store water. Johads / aghors are water bodies, which have large catchment area  where water is accumulated during monsoons and peculated down to the water table.  These  ancient structures help build reservoirs  and have been around since 1500 BC and were ingeniously designed not only to hold runoff from monsoon rains, but also help the water percolate into the ground and  improve the water table. To build them lots of manpower are required. This can not be done by a group of 4 or 5 people. It requires the involvement of the entire community to get the project going and complete it successfully. 
traditional water storage system, India johad, en.wikipedia.org

His very first project in the village of  Gopalpura,  was a success and the good news began to spread like a summer bush fire in the  parched villages.  Singh wrote in 2009. ”Village people started approaching me for helping them to do the same in their areas.”Between 1985 and 2007, he built some 8,600 such structures in over 1,068 villages  covering  6,500 square kilometres. they were built by local communities working with the organization  Tarun Bharat Sangh.

His  hard work paid off and produced amazing results. The construction of Johads impacted the water table that rose from about 100 metres to between about 13 metres and 3 metres. Consequently, the area under single cropping increased from manifold from  11% to 70%, and the area under double cropping went up  from 3% to 50%.  Yet another advantage was Forest cover also expanded from 7% to 40%.

Because of Singh's sustained work,  Alwar and other 10  districts are dotted with  4,500 working johads.  Now five  rivers flow year round fed  by a protected watershed and the revitalizing impact of the village reservoirs.  The additional advantage is land under cultivation has grown by five times and this increased the income of the  farmers.  Local men find a job in their own village and for the women folks, they can access water locally, no need to walk up and down  farther than the village  to fetch a pitcher or two of water

Success did not come to him easily. The state officials, invoking State Irrigation  and Drainage Act of 1954 set the road blocks for his mission.  They filed countless cases against him in the court

Undaunted, he kept  approaching various government officials for help and cooperation.   People like Sadvi Padmavati and swami  Atma Bhodananda  and Greta Thernburg  gave him the needed inspiration.  The visit of former President K.R.  Narayanan in 2000 to one of his projects changed every thing. No more red tape and no more roadblocks by the  arrogant govt. officials. 

Now 60 years old, Rajaendra Singh is an inspiration to the young people in the area of water conservation and management. Salutations to Dr. Rajendra Singh, a worthy Indian whose sustained mission and commitments will  act as  a stimulus to the  future generation of young people.    
https://qz.com/india/367875/an-ancient-technology-is-helping-indias-water-man-save-thousands-of-parched-villages/