Another problem they faced early on was that of sanitation. “Initially we thought of building a rainwater harvesting system in an unauthorised slum in Delhi,” she recalls. “But although it is the poor who benefit the most from groundwater recharging, slums invariably have open drains and sewage seeping into the ground which makes them less than ideal places to harvest rainwater.” Today, FORCE works in urban slums in Delhi to provide access to clean drinking water and solid waste management.
Presently, much of their effort is being expended on developing and promoting water efficient technologies for agriculture. Sharma points out that the farm sector is the single largest water guzzler in the country. FORCE has recently inaugurated the Pandit Jagat Ram School for Profitable Agriculture and Resource Conservation, which will research, train and share models of water efficient farming technologies, groundwater recharge methods and more. This is in line with FORCE’s award-winning, four-way partnership model in which the community, technical exports, funding partners and the government are mobilised simultaneously for effective social action. “In the coming years, we’re going to try to develop the demand for water-efficient technologies, as well as agro products grown using these technologies,” she says. This has the potential of becoming the new organic: “Typically, crops grown using water efficient technologies cast a smaller ecological burden but also use fewer chemical additives and are tastier too!” she says.
So far, FORCE has been supported by institutional donors like WaterAid India; government agencies like Jal Board and corporates like HSBC, Asian Paints and Diageo to name some. Sharma estimates that they have managed to reach out to over 1.5 million people in the country and over 30 million litres of water have been saved or recharged because of their intervention. A lot more needs to be done, however. Sharma is confident that once people take ownership of their water resources as well as consumption instead of leaving it for the government to handle, they could ensure they inhabit — and leave behind, a bluer planet.
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