Can we revive our rivers and landscapes? Can we bring water back to regions that have been desertified? Yes we can, and this example shows us how.
Drought and water scarcity are now issues all around the world. Cities are running out of water, landscapes are engulfed in flames, and every year drought, flood and fire become more common and severe. Despite the huge amount of energy and money that has been put into developing elaborate water systems, the distribution and availability of water seems to continue getting worse. The engineered solutions that nations around the world have pursued, while solving our immediate needs, have made the long term outlook even more bleak. The best solutions we’ve found have come from people living close to their landscape, dependent on the health of their land for their own survival.
In the driest region of India, Doctor Rajendra Singh was up against these enormous challenges. The farmland in his region had turned to desert, water sources had gone dry, and all of the young people from the villages had migrated to the cities for work. While he was treating the remaining elderly villagers for night blindness (due to malnutrition), one village elder showed Rajendra a more powerful way to help the community. He told Rajendra that what the community needed to be healthy was not medicine, but water - Rajendra had to shift his focus to treating the Earth.
With that Rajendra’s education on the traditional water structures of Rajasthan began. The village elder lowered Rajendra into various wells, showing him the differences in the geological layers. They saw how in vertically fractured geology the trees grew bigger and stronger, as they were able to access the groundwater. In the areas with horizontally fractured geology they saw how the trees grew short and squat, growing more like shrubs than trees. Then the elder took Rajendra to a specific place within the landscape, and told him to start building a water body there.
As the monsoon season came, so did the rains to fill the waterbody. Rajendra’s first Johad (water body) worked, providing water to both the landscape and the life on the landscape. But something even more miraculous happened. Downstream of the water body a well that had gone dry was full to the top with water. Not only had the water body brought life to the landscape, it also had recharged the underground aquifer.
As people in the surrounding communities saw and heard of the results, interest in the work started to spread. As more villages brought water back to their landscapes, health, prosperity, and enjoyment returned to the region. Instead of just one crop per year, villagers were now able to grow 2, 3 or even 4 crops each year. Young people who had migrated to the cities for work started to return. Working with water delivers results after the first rainy season. As people helped infiltrate the seasonal rains into the ground, the health of their communities returned. Rajendra’s work became a movement, spreading throughout the region.
As the groundwater in the region returned, so did the flow of the rivers. Seasonal rivers started to flow year round. Rivers like the Arvari that had been dry for decades started to flow year round once again. 250,000 wells were recharged, benefiting more than a million people and even causing reverse migration. 7 rivers were revived. The temperature in the region was reduced by 2 degrees Celsius.
Water is life. All life has equal rights to water, it’s not just for companies and wealthy water barons. In a water abundant world, with water freely available, no one has to buy it. But in a water scarce world, the business of selling water is extremely profitable. The companies that privatize water make a profit while destroying ecosystems and keeping water supplies scarce. This is the real threat for our future, and something we must stand united against.
“Today this education system destroys the love and respect of nature. This education system creates control - flood control, drought control. Nature is not for control, nature’s for love and respect. This way of controlling is creating a disaster.”
“When we can flow with nature, nature gives us the flow of peace and enjoyment.”
Even in the driest and harshest conditions, the water cycle can be recharged and become healthy once again. If the poorest villages in the driest part of India can restore the health of their landscape, then why can’t this work be done around the world? Community Driven Decentralized Water Retention provides a clear and proven pathway towards a better common future. Decades of environmental damage can be reversed in a few years and our planet can be rejuvenated by working with water, soil, and vegetation.
“The water is really the mother of peace, and the forest is the father of peace. If there is no water, a lot of tension starts. When the water comes, people have peace.”
“Water conservation and soil conservation is a real revolution. The conservation of water stopped the soil erosion, and that work stopped the drought in that village.”
“If we’re not thinking about the common future, if we’re not giving equal respect to the community and nature, we can’t make prosperity and peace. This change came in my region, due to the community involvement.”
Tarun Bharat Sangh seeks to bring dignity and prosperity to the life of a destitute section of the nation through sustainable development measures. TBS aims for the holistic development of men, women, and children, regardless of economic situation, caste or religion. TBS promotes the community-driven-decentralized-management of the natural resources.
This is Rajendra's organization - the team of people that has been guiding villages through this transformation. Here you can learn more about their work, help support their efforts, and learn more about their educational offerings.