On the occasion of World Environment Day, CitySpidey is sharing one of the profiles. It is the profile of Rajender Singh, known as waterman of India. He is decorated with several national and international awards for conservation of water and rejuvenation of hundreds of water bodies.
Here is the interview taken in May 2017:
Rivers are dying. Groundwater is being depleted. And there’s precious little we, as individuals, can do to revive water bodies. Right?
Rajendra Singh, also known as Jalpurush or Waterman, has devoted his life to reviving dead rivers and barren areas, and conserving the planet’s natural resources. Apart from reviving five dead rivers in Rajasthan, he has single-handedly turned 8,600 sq km of barren land into lush forest.
With his name becoming synonymous with water conservation in India, and indeed across the world, he has been the recipient of several prestigious awards such as the the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2001 and the Stockholm Water Prize in 2005.
On a recent visit to Delhi from his hometown Alwar, in Rajasthan, for a water literacy campaign, City Spidey caught up with Singh.
Here are a few excerpts from the interview:
What are your views on India’s groundwater recharge model?
The drainage system of the entire country is in bad shape, and groundwater recharge has been badly affected. Scientific reports say that poor recharge has brought us to an alarming stage of groundwater depletion. If this is not stopped or altered, the country will not survive.
We need a comprehensive approach to come up with a solution for recharging the aquifers. It should include decentralisation of the water management system and involvement of the community. The government, agencies and the community should come together to save the water bodies and recharge the aquifers, or this crisis will not be solved.
What do you think about the claims of the government and the agencies about water conservation efforts in the country?
What efforts? The government is serving neither the nation, nor the planet, as far as water conservation goes. The environment is suffering, and it’s for everyone to see — how satisfied do you think I, or any other environmentally aware resident, will be with their claims?
What do you have to say about the condition of water in Delhi?
Delhi has no sustainable water resource. The Yamuna, which was once the city’s lifeline, is today a dying river — how will it fulfil the city’s water requirements? There are 18 big nullahs that flow directly into the Yamuna, and bring with them all kinds of industrial waste. So just as the Sahibi river has now been reduced to being called the Najafgarh drain, the Yamuna, too, could face a similar future.
And the reason is the city’s poor water-treatment system. How can effluent and industrial waste flow directly into a river? There is a dire need to revive the Yamuna if Delhi has to stand any chance of survival in future. The government should really think about the state of affairs seriously. It needs to manage what flows into the river and what doesn’t, if it has to prevent further water pollution.
How can Delhi increase its water table?
Delhi has great potential for rainwater harvesting. It gets about 1,200 mm of rain per year, which, if harnessed properly, can be used wonderfully for groundwater recharge. The soil of Delhi is ideal for water absorption. The broad catchment area of the Yamuna can work wonders for the recharge of the underground water table. However, any construction on the Yamuna plain needs to be banned. Similarly, the Aravalli area can be managed a lot better for rainwater harvesting, but mining needs to be stopped. So it’s not just one thing or another that can increase Delhi’s water table, but an overall comprehensive approach.