The Amazing Waterman of India
Tour Visit Video Overview

Posted by on Feb 20, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

Gandhi Legacy Tour of India 2016-2017 delegation was warmly greeted by The Waterman of India, Dr. Rajendra Singh, his family and the community members he serves.  We were traditionally received, served chai and cookies, and learned more about the community, The Waterman’s background, and water body projects at the Tarun Bharat Sangh campus.  A compelling story was told by campus community member Kasturi.  

Dr. Singh led us on a field tour of his first aquifer project. He explained how he was inspired to take up a life devoted to water conservation.  He is fondly known as “Gandhi of Water.”  He explained how volunteers worked to shore up their “johad,” a small urban dam and water storage facility.  Rajasthan is India’s driest state, historically suffering from persistent droughts.  Resultantly many people gave up their lives as farmers and herdsman and migrated to the bigger cities.  Some villagers stayed back and began a movement working to build crescent shaped dams to conserve the monsoon rains.  The idea caught on and people of the region have since built over 8,000 dams and johads to store as much water as possible.  

Singh explains, “As the water collects behind the crescent shaped dams, nature takes over.  The stored water slowly seeps into the soil, replenishing the ground water underneath.  The waters stored behind these dams are slowly released into fields in order to grow crops.”  This is a beautiful example of rain-water harvesting. The community members accomplished this on their own with hard work under the leadership of Dr. Rajendra Singh with no government support.  Many of the community members now practice water-harvesting, and taking great strides towards self-sufficiency.

Singh was beaming with excitement when he showed us his very first water body project, “This first water body project was the beginning of huge changes in the community.  This very project directly showed me that our efforts are changing the very face of the earth and the climate.  The water bodies are feeding animals, even tigers coming for water, and people can wash their clothes.  The volunteers have planted many trees to prevent erosion.  Community members who once left are now coming back as there is agriculture opportunities here.  They grow a few crops each year, sugarcane, rice, and mustard seed.”  The community members expressed deep respect to The Waterman for helping them to farm and prosper.

We started our morning our second Waterman day at 5:30 a. m. taking a long rugged ride in a 5-jeep caravan to two additional projects that Dr. Rajendra Singh wanted to share with us.  

Interestingly, reformed bandits are trading their guns for shovels and digging new dams.  The bandits, who were once chased by the police, are now invited into their homes to be honored for such a transformation.  After our field tour the Waterman honored a man who works in transforming the bandits into dam builders.  

Singh’s movement has empowered one of India’s poorest and driest communities, teaching villagers how to save water and use it efficiently. Several rivers, once dried up, are now flowing again. The community effort accomplished a beautiful outcome without the use of huge, costly, hydro-electric power projects run by a far away government.  Big dams do not help the poor, small dams help the poor and are seen as a community property resource.  Small farmers can build and repair the dams.

We then traveled back to Tarun Bharat Sangh campus and had a final gathering to share our thoughts and insights over chai.

Rajendra Singh is raising awareness about water harvesting throughout India and his goal is to spread the movement around the world.  He says water is a precious commodity that future wars will be fought over.  He says we must work together as a whole to save every tiny drop around the world.

Rajendra Singh water reclamation


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