At Parmarth Niketan, Global Interfaith WASH Alliance Inspires Water Engineers and Scientists from Africa to be the Solutions Against Water Scarcity Rishikesh– Water engineers and scientists from several African countries participated in a workshop on “Indigenous and Faith-Based Solutions for Water Security and Sustainability” conducted by the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA), in collaboration with IIT Roorkee’s Department of Hydrology, at Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh this week.
By 2030, if present consumption patterns continue, it is predicted that the world will have just 60% of the water that it needs. Already, the countdown has begun in the South African city of Cape Town, which is expected to hit “Day Zero” on April 21, when all its taps will run dry. More than 50% of India faces high to extremely high water stress. In large part, this is caused by wasteful practices, such as in the irrigation sector, which accounts for around 85% of water consumption in India.
In the background of these issues, the half-day GIWA workshop focused on the importance of traditional indigenous techniques of water conservation and management, including desert-condition rainwater harvesting tanks, check dams and farm ponds.
The role of faith leaders and organizations in mobilizing and ensuring citizens’ participation was also discussed, with special reference to GIWA’s campaigns for water, sanitation, hygiene, the environment and river conservation in different parts of India.
Said HH Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, President of Parmarth Niketan and Founder/Chair of GIWA, “Water knows no borders. All rivers run into one ocean. This week, Africa and India became one in heart, united with the pledge to defeat the threat of water scarcity through our combined technology, tenaciousness and togetherness.”
Said Professor D. S. Arya, Head of the Department of Hydrology at IIT Roorkee, “We need to ask ourselves this question: Are our water usage practices environment and climate friendly or not? Through improper practices, we unknowingly add to our problems. We also need to couple traditional knowledge with modern science and technology to find effective solutions for the water crisis. I am very grateful to GIWA for highlighting such crucial issues through this programme.”
In her address at the workshop, Swamini Adityananda Saraswati, Director, Programmes and Development, GIWA, said, “We are at a perilous tipping point in history. Our water resources are drying up before our eyes. Knowing that in only a handful of years, India will have half the water it needs, we must take action in mission mode. Many solutions are surprisingly simple. Using modernized versions of our indigenous water-saving practices, for example, our farmers can reap better harvests than those gained using bore wells. This allows communities to profit greatly as their groundwater tables also replenish.”
The African delegation, which included members from Malawi, Burundi, Kenya, Zambia, Egypt, Nigeria, Tanzania and Seychelles, enthusiastically discussed possible plans applying indigenous and faith-based solutions for water management in their countries. Success stories of community-led water schemes from India and Africa were also reviewed.
Said Sadhvi Bhagwati Saraswati, Secretary-General of GIWA, “it was beautiful to have welcomed people from across Africa to their home in the Himalayas, where this dynamic sharing took place for the sake of our children and our children’s children. Without water how can there be a future, whether we are in India or Africa or the Americas? Now is the time for togetherness.”
Said a participant from Seychelles, “These problems are affecting everyone, not just one group of people, so everyone should be aware of the issues, the effects, and what they can do to help fix the problem.”
Said a participant from Malawi, “I will share these stories when I go back home, so that more of my colleagues can come to India to learn about these subjects. I also want GIWA to come to my country to give us knowledge regarding water resources management.”