Sunday, July 22, 2012

Smarter Cities need Smarter Water and more Naveen and Sarita Jis

As I relax on a Sunday monsoon infused afternoon with my cuppa tea on my balcony, I have been introspecting about the topic of today's Satyamev Jayate show, Water. The show featured an ordinary citizen Naveen Chandra, the secretary of his building society (which happens be in my neigbourhood) who has proactively been managing the water requirements of his building to ensure no shortage. Here is a snippet from the show:

Mr Chandra reminded me of Sarita Ji, a lady I met in Rahul Gandhi Nagar, a slum area north of Indore while I was visiting a group of employee volunteers supporting a water conservation effort (we place volunteers for several weeks around the world through the IBM Corporate Service Corps Program).  She single handedly rallied her community around the effort and now this slum gets clean, running water throughout the year, much like Mr Chandra did but in a very different, yet inspiring way.

I'm not a water expert but this is what I learned. The first step to conserving water is to give it a value i.e. to price it. But you can't charge for water unless you can measure usage. People only want to pay for what they use, especially slum dwellers given limited incomes. Organizations like India@75 and UHRC partnered with Sarita ji as a community leader to get the slum metered. Then Sarita Ji and some of the local women were in charge of collecting Rs.1/day i.e. Rs.30/month between the 1st and 10th of every month. The community became more conscious of how much water they were using because of the meters and because they knew they would be charged. Also because of running water, children now take regular baths so there were less illness and disease. In addition, running water allows for concrete to be used to build stronger homes and roads. Even though there is more to do, Rahul Gandhi Nagar has become a thriving township thanks to water conservation and are now able to focus on more services for their citizens like a community training center for women. 

Great Civilizations were built on the banks of rivers.  Our cities will have to make water a priority if they are to become Smarter Cities. If you are ever in Indore, go visit Ms Sarita ji she is an extraordinary woman with incredible energy, passion, clarity and leadership. I was truly inspired!

Oh and don't forget switch off the tap when you are brushing your teeth #ConserveWater!


  1. While attaching value i.e price to water does make its effect but also promotes consumerism where people who can easily afford it dont care for the misuse.We do realise the importance of water in our lives but do little for it because we have lost a sense of respect towards it.Our ancestors knew the relevance of water and worshipped it. While today that worship is called environmentalism the sensibility towards it is long forgotten. People take a dip in the Ganga but dont care while throwing waste into it and this disrespect translates into misuse of water as well.Education,awareness, voluntary and selfless actions are more important in my point of view else we will see bloodshed over water in the times to come.

  2. I strongly oppose the pricing of Water. How can a daily wager who earn Rs.200 subject to the conditions if find work on specified day, will pay for water which is basic need?? How poor will survive with out water? Don't kill poor by depriving them from water, Instead we must kill poverty. We can't smear our hands with blood of poor by depriving them of Water by pricing of the water.
    Another adversarial aspect is it'll lead to anarchy to price water in state like India.
    It'll give birth to Water sharks as we have land sharks.
    We must take small-small steps individually n collectively to Conserve Water.
    Individually we must make sure that not a single drop of Water is being wasted by our maid-servant or Car-cleaner while washing clothes or car.
    We must not allow our maid servant to take water for granted n waste it at will.
    When I was perusing mahha Doctorate, n staying in pg in one metropolis, I used to see maid servant n car cleaner waste so much water in neighbourhood. Must stop this.
    We must stop usage of fresh water in Construction business. Our scientist must find way to make cement compatible with drain or sewerage wager.
    We must stop those rituals performed on banks of rivers that pollute rivers.
    Stop over usage of fertilizers n pesticide in Agriculture that cause contamination of fresh due to Eutrofication.
    Stoppage of Water mining that is causing depletion of Water level.
    Rain water harvesting system to be compulsory for specified area building.
    Plantation of more n more trees n preserving old trees n forests.
    Revival of wells,ponds, n other resources of Water in countryside village.
    We must make our kids more sensitive while using water at home or some where else.
    Stop industrial pollution that is causing contamination of fresh water.