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Guardians of Our Waters

Mar/26/2023 / by Melanie Fourie

As South Asia runs out of the natural resource, a few organizations step up to try and even the odds

A vector image of the globe with a symbolic tap emptying out water within it
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March 22 marked World Water Day, an annual celebration of water that draws attention to the plight of people worldwide who lack access to clean water. According to the UN, everyone has the right to clean water. In fact, a society’s health and stability depend on the availability of pure, drinkable water, and the measures taken to keep it available. However, severe shortages in many nations mean that 2.2 billion people still lack access to clean water, according to Peace for Asia.

Shortages can result in conflict, as happens in the case of groundwater supplies in South Asia. This is particularly true of India and Pakistan. The Water Project reports that corruption, waste, and inadequate government planning contribute to India’s water issues, which is expected to have a population of 1.6 billion people by 2050, which could lead to a severe water crisis.

Other South Asian countries, such as Nepal, have their share of water challenges. Though roughly 80% of Nepal’s population has access to water used for drinking, it is not safe for consumption, as per the country’s Department of Water Supply and Sewerage. People from minority and underprivileged groups in remote regions have very little to no access to water. Those in outlying regions depend on brooks, and journey for hours for a few gallons of water. However, the water is often contaminated and not always fit for human consumption.

Goals to Meet

While considerable progress has been made, most South Asian countries still far from reaching the Sustainable Development Goals for clean water and toilets. There are more than 134 million South Asians who lack access to safe, potable water, and over 610 million without access to adequate toilets. Waterborne illnesses kill nearly 360,000 South Asians every year, most of them infants under the age of five. That said, here are some South Asian water conservation warriors determined to beat the odds.

Sustainable Alternatives for Rural Accord (SARA)

SARA and its partner organizations have been doing research and implementing sustainable methods at multiple levels as part of its Swagrama initiative. The project takes its cue from Mahatma Gandhi’s ideal Village Swaraj, initiative and strives for the same kind of agricultural self-sufficiency.

An integral component of the plan is to reduce water usage. Throughout the Shivamogga region in Karnataka, SARA is revitalizing several lakes near villages. Clogged with sediment, most of these could no longer replenish groundwater or fertilize crops. Desilting has increased the lakes’ ability to store water that lasts through the summer. Groundwater recharge has also increased soil hydration, which helps agriculture.

The India Water Foundation (IWF)

The India Water Foundation, a nonprofit civic group, works to raise understanding of the Sustainable Development Goals and key provisions of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change in the Asia-Pacific region and India. These goals include water conservation. IWF also educates the public about the dangers of inefficient water management.

Their public awareness also includes the effects of water, energy, and environmental issues on human health, economic development, and people’s ability to make a living. To help people live safer with clean water, IWF works to localize and execute the Sustainable Development Goals.

Watershed Organization Trust (WOTR)

From its base in Pune, this organization now works in 3,500 villages spread across nine Indian states to guard aquifers.

It enslists “jal sevaks” to implement water planning and guarantee equitable and efficient water use. These jal sevaks drive water-saving initiatives in their own community and three to four neighboring settlements. The initiatives hope to help people in remote areas to collect and save water.

To improve access to safe, potable water and hygiene in rural areas, WOTR funds check dams and other water-collection structures.

Bhumi

Bhumi is an NGO that began the “Revive Lakes” initiative to clear and restore lakes and other aquatic bodies. They help the inhabitants of Bengaluru to combat the water crisis by reviving waterways on the verge of emptying.

Volunteers who make up the Revive Waters team clean the water and raise awareness about water issues in the community. Thus, Bhumi workers aim to clean the waterways and make the city self-sufficient in water.

During the Vibhutipura Lake Project, hundreds of people removed tons of trash from the lake. After sprucing up the area, they spread the word, teaching the importance of preserving the water source and its surroundings.

The Bangladesh Wash Alliance (BWA)

Several Bangladeshi NGOs have joined WASH Alliance International (WAI). Over 100 organizations from around the globe make up WASH Alliance International. They collaborate with regional non-governmental organizations, national administrations, and international companies. The attempt is to guarantee that all people have reliable access to clean water and sanitary facilities.

A group of 14 NGOs in Bangladesh make up the BWA. These NGOs have participated in or are a part of a WAI-funded initiative. Participating organizations include Dalit, the Bangladesh Association for Social Advancement (BASA), and the Development Organization for the Rural Poor (DORP).

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