On the occasion of World Water Day, celebrated worldwide on 22nd March 2021, ACF organized a webinar focused on ‘Valuing Water’ with speakers and community representatives sharing insights on the importance of water for us and future generations. Along with the community members, Ms. Pearl Tiwari, Director & CEO, Ambuja Cement Foundation and Mr. Shyam Sundar Paliwali, Padma Shree Awardee, were also a part of the event.
Women representatives were invited to speak first for which Lata Devi from Marwar Mundwa village shared the challenges she faced in the beginning of married life to fetch drinking water. “I used to cry every night as I couldn’t handle the house work, water and my children. ACF came to me as a savior as now I don’t need to worry anymore and all is settled.” Chanda Tai from Chandrapur shared her first experience in solving the water issues when she saw the soak pits and bore well models at the ACF office and immediately built the same in her villages. Looking at her flourish, her community also quickly started building such structures. “I am part of the Ekta Mahila Women Federation and now it is on our agenda to encourage our women to build bore well recharge system (Soak Pit) to recharge drinking water bore wells.”
Manoharlal from Dadri pointed out, “Countries like Iran and Iraq are major providers of Petroleum and Oil but when it comes to water they have to purchase it in large amounts. Let’s not make our communities so dependent that we need to turn to money to quench our thirst.” A few cotton farmers happily shared that due to interventions in water at an early stage their crops were able to flourish and sometimes even grow 2-3 crops a year. Community members agreed that water was the solution to all problems and there was a need to focus more work on water to save it for the future.
The current government has introduced various initiatives like Jal Jeevan Mission and Har Ghar Jal to ensure water reaches every household in the next 5-6 years. Pearl Tiwari encouraged people to work collectively with the government and take advantage of these schemes to ensure water sufficiency in every household.
It was a privilege to have Padma Shri Award Winner and Eco-Feminist of India, Mr. Shyam Sundar Paliwali from Piplantri village, Rajsamand present at this virtual event. He is known for his Kiran Nidhi Yojana through which he planted 111 trees for every girl child born in his village and also provided a financial scheme. This resulted in the drastic improvement of the sex ratio in his village. He said, “If there is no water in your community, there is no success and flourishment. As leaders of the community we should dedicate more of our work on water. Our mother earth is drying up and it is high time we as leaders begin to work on water and get her back to life.” He invited the attendees to visit his village to motivate themselves to carry out practices on their own. Mr. Shyam has previously visited ACF’s Rabriyawas location and appreciated the work done on water harvesting and drinking water. During the event he encouraged the community to continue supporting ACF and praised the extensive work done in water. He also requested ACF to initiate interventions in Piplantri and its surrounding areas.
ACF’s main focus through its program interventions is to ensure ownership by the community and build people’s institutions to create sustainability and self-sufficiency. Water quality testing, reviving and deepening of ponds, community RO systems, water surveillance and budgeting are all carried out by the community institutions like Water User Associations, Paani Samitis or other Local Committees. With ACF only providing technical, financial and hand-holding support, communities have gained confidence to reignite water interventions and introduce new practices. Sangitaben is the Sarpanch of Deoria village in Jaitaran. She said, “Our People have now come to realize the importance of water. Sometimes they come to us with new methods and practices to be initiated in our villages. This is the change we need to see. With the help of ACF, my community has built 150 tanks and is also involved in reviving a nearby pond.”
But ‘what next?’ people asked at the event. The water which is used by the current generation is the saving of the previous generation. Measures and action need to be set to save water for the future. This can only happen if water education is encouraged with all stakeholders. Collaborative efforts with different stakeholders are required to develop modules and explore immediate solutions. The reuse and recycling of water is a major hurdle and practices need to develop within communities to save more water. Chandrakant Kumbhani, General Manager, Community Development, Ambuja Cement Foundation added, “Water Quality is the least priority in communities but we need to make it high priority to ensure overall health and well-being of each other.”
To conclude, this event shared a glimpse of issues community members faced and how they efficiently transformed their communities to make it water abundant. There were almost 200 attendees from 12 locations of Ambuja Cement Foundation. Apart from the event, community awareness in the form of Water Walks, Street Plays, Posters, Drawing Competitions were also carried out at various locations reaching over 6000 community members.