Water warriors

Updated: 21 March, 2020 10:35 IST | Shunashir Sen | Mumbai

Ahead of World Water Day, meet four people doing a stellar job of preserving a precious natural resource

It's of course imperative at a time like this to wash our hands at regular intervals. But if we do that keeping the tap open throughout, we will be inadvertently contributing to another doomsday scenario. Water scarcity is a real crisis. Over four billion people face a severe shortage at least one month in a year (a fact that people in parts of Mumbai would be well aware of). Awareness is the key and ahead of World Water Day that falls on March 22, we profile four people who have taken painstaking effort to ensure that we do our bit to save the precious natural resource.

A fine harvest

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Mumbai is a city that's apt for rainwater harvesting considering the torrential monsoon it witnesses every year. Sagar Singh is a 26-year-old who recognises that, which is why he created a community called Eco Warriors India in 2019, in order to make people more aware about the issue. Singh goes around schools and colleges in the city, teaching students how to set up a rainwater-harvesting model. "We once collaborated with ICT College in Palghar and set up ponds in the district that are called 'circulation pits'. The idea is not just to recharge ground water but to also ward off scarcity, since a Niti Aayog report once said that 21 cities in India will run out of groundwater by the end of this year," Singh tells us, pointing out how there is clear and present danger.

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A one-tap solution

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Aabid Surti is effectively a one-man NGO. Every Monday, the octogenarian contacts housing societies in less-privileged parts of the city, asking if there are flats in the building that have leaking taps. He then puts up a poster at the society, informing residents that he will drop by the following Sunday with a plumber in tow, in order to fix the leakages completely free of cost. Surti says, "I once read in a newspaper that if one drop drips from a tap every second, then 1,000 litres of water will be lost in a month. I grew up on the pavement, where we literally had to fight for every bucket of water. Those childhood memories have never left me, which is why I took up this cause."

Not wasting chances

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It was in September 2017 when Malhar Kalambe started a community called Beach Please. The intention initially was to gather his school friends and clean up Dadar beach. "But we soon realised that the source of the waste was the Mithi River, and we have since been cleaning the water there at regular intervals," he tells us. It's been 70 weeks that he and his band of eco-warriors have been on this mission. Kalambe says, "The BMC spends `110 crore every year to clean the river up, and there is still no solution because lack of awareness remains a problem."

Resurrecting a river

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A sentence that an 80-year-old woman had once told her changed Rajshri Deshpande's life. She was in Marathwada, her native place, listening to the problems of locals and offering them advice, when the woman asked her, "You come here, talk to us and go back to the city. But what are you actually going to do for us?" The words sprung Deshpande into action. She returned to Mumbai, gathered `1.5 lakh from a couple of well-meaning friends, went back to the village and started work on reviving a river called Bembla, which had remained dry for almost 25 years. "The villagers helped me even though I had no money to pay them," Deshpande says, adding, "Everyone there knows me now, and I have even seen children being born in front of my eyes. They are my family now and my point is that if I can do it, then anyone can because you aren't going to find all the solutions on social media."

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First Published: 21 March, 2020 09:05 IST

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