Sometimes, we come across an article that surprises us, educates us and makes us feel terrific about the world. One such article is about Aakash Ganga, an innovative water resources project that began in Rajasthan, India and has now reached China’s Guiyang Municipality. “The entire world has become aware of the shortage of fresh water in some countries and regions,” notes an expert quoted in this article. “These include India, with 16% of humanity but less than 3% of global fresh water resources. The poor water availability is exacerbated by its uneven spread over regions and time of the year.” The Ganga is the most sacred and the most important of India’s rivers. Legend has it that the River Ganga was a Heavenly River which was brought to earth by a legendary devotee King named Bhagirath. The nameAakash Ganga means Ganga from the Sky – an apt name for a project that seeks to store and save rain water. This project is now making a mark in both the desert areas of Rajasthan and mountainous areas of China’s Guiyang region. We think this article is a must read. Below, we include some excerpts from this article.
In hindsight, harvesting rainwater was an obvious choice. The idea got off the ground in 2003 when the Rajasthan Association of North America,a non-profit organization which aims to promote the culture and development of Rajasthan, hosted the 2003 New York convention of Rajasthan natives. The Aakash Ganga proposal was presented to Ashok Gehlot, then chief minister of the state. With his encouragement, the science behind the scheme was worked out at BITS Pilani. And a support structure was put in place.
The big boost to the project came in 2006, when Aakash Ganga won the World Bank’s Development Marketplace Award. A $200,000 grant allowed the project to expand operations to other villages.
In 2007, the Indian Prime Minister’s Office encouraged Sustainable Innovations to submit a plan for implementing Aakash Ganga in the “dark zone” of Rajasthan. (Dark zone status means the groundwater table in the area is significantly below the minimum desired level, and the water quality in the area is substandard.)
Rainwater harvesting, while not technically complicated, needs careful coordination. Essentially, Aakash Ganga channels rooftop rainwater from every house, through gutters and pipes, to a network of multi-tier underground reservoirs. The project has the capacity to collect and store rainwater (with average rainfall) sufficient for an entire year. In terms of organizational structure, this is a public-private-community partnership which acquires rights from homeowners to harvest their rooftop rainwater for a fee or subsidy. The harvested rainwater is supplied to the village according to a socially equitable distribution policy. Part of the water is used for revenue generation and cost recovery.
“Aakash Ganga debunked the myth that people will not pay for water,”…“It weaned people away from the free water entitlement mindset.” ….“This is a significant transition from the “water is free” mentality to a “water is an economic good” frame of mind.”
“In term of coverage, the project is an enormous success, surpassing its planned objectives by almost doubling the number of houses included in the rainwater harvesting plan,”….“A total of 119 household tanks were constructed in three villages in the Alwar district in Rajasthan and an intermediate tank and a recharge well were built. The network stores rainwater sufficient to meet the drinking water needs of these villages. In broader terms, the project demonstrates an alternative to the typically inefficient and poor performing public works projects.”
The Asian Development Bank (AD is supporting an experiment aimed at exploring whether the Aakash Ganga approach can work in Guiyang. In March, the ADB approved a $50,000 pilot project and demonstration activities to “demonstrate the full potential of Aakash Ganga self-sustaining rainwater harvesting”.
“Aakash Ganga has gone beyond meeting this basic need,” says India Abroad, a New York-based publication.“Reports from all three villages where Aakash Ganga was (first) implemented suggest that women have become economically more productive and girls have attended more classes as they now no longer have to spend a lot of time collecting water,”
India always surprises you by its uniqueness. If we asked you, what is a socially relevant measure of water scarcity? You probably would not come up with the measure described by BP Agrawal, the President of Sustainable Innovations and the moving spirit behind this project.