When conserving water became the desperate need of the hour, an Anganwadi worker, Shashi Sharma initiated a simple and innovative rainwater harvesting method in her village, Kakupur Sitaram in Kanpur. The technique is now being replicated across the state of Uttar Pradesh and is leading thousands of villagers to conserve water.
For over 17 years, 40-year-old Shashi Sharma has been working as an Anganwadi worker in Kakupur Sitaram village in Kanpur.
“A total of about 170 beneficiaries are associated with the Anganwadi Centre. This includes pregnant and lactating women, babies and infants. Water is a scarce commodity here at the Anganwadi Centre as either the handpumps are not functional due to low water levels, or there are some technical issues”, says Shashi who is not only an active Anganwadi worker, but also an informed resident of the village working closely with the Gram Panchayat for other concerning issues of the village, such as water scarcity.
Kakupur village, home to around 2000 residents is situated on the banks of river Ganga. However, it still faces a huge water crisis each year with the groundwater table decreasing drastically leading to very few functional handpumps.
“Despite heavy rainfall, our village faces a constant water shortage. Due to its location right next to the river, all the water that comes in the form of rainfall gets washed away. Conversely, when there is less rainfall, the villagers - mostly farmers suffer major losses as there is no water for their farms”, shares 60-year-old Sant Kumar Sharma, Gram Pradhan of Kakupur Sitaram village.
Keeping in view the desperate need to address the water crisis, in 2016 Jal Chaupal came into being, a platform where the villagers could come together to discuss water related problems and seek solutions. Shashi participated in the Jal Chaupal meetings in order to understand how she could work towards making water easily accessible in her house.
A Jal Chaupal meeting in progress (Photo Credits: WaterAid/Asif Khan)
The Jal Chaupal meetings helped the villagers to understand water requirements for each of the households, the need to use water efficiently, maintain cleanliness at water sources, as well as look for options by which the dried water sources could be recharged.
Rainwater harvesting, a common method to conserve water, kept emerging as a solution during the meetings, but hardly anyone in the village was willing to try it out. Shashi tried to understand different aspects of rainwater harvesting and began discussions with the Gram Panchayat to implement the process.
Water dialogue during a Jal Chaupal session in Kakupur Sitaram, Kanpur (Photo credits: WaterAid India)
Soon, Shashi adopted a simple method to conserve rainwater. With the help of a huge polythene cover. Shashi started to collect rainwater on her thatched roof and had it channelized into a drum. This stored water was used in the next few months for household chores. The first one to experiment and initiate the process, Shashi’s efforts paid off. The result was having more access to water for her family’s needs as well as great appreciation from the other residents of the village for the simplicity of the method in practice.
As the next step to make water accessible for all, through rainwater harvesting, the Ghar Ghar Aakash Ganga Abhiyan (Household Rainwater Harvesting Campaign) was launched in August 2017 and Shashi was nominated to lead it.
Shashi explaining her model of rainwater harvesting during a Jal Chaupal meeting in her village. (Photo credits: WaterAid India)
Gradually, advanced training sessions and workshops were held for the villagers to adopt rainwater harvesting as a common household practice. They were motivated to use and improvise the simple method through plastic sheets on thatched rooftops.
WaterAid India and its partners helped create posters and information booklets to explain the process in a better way. Additionally, various Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials were developed in the local language to address the common queries of the villagers, such as ways to keep the water clean and in usable condition.
The campaign was launched initially in six Gram Panchayats across Lucknow and Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh. Considering the ease with which rainwater could be collected, the villagers started adopting the practice on a wider scale. The campaign aims to enable each household to collect approximately 500 Litres of water during monsoons, so that water is available for requirements like feeding livestock during days of water scarcity, cleaning and washing as well as catering to other needs. The overflow from each storage tank is further channelized into the recharge pit at the household level. The village is also being provided with technical support so as to sustain the process.
Shashi actively supports the villagers in adopting this practice. She is determined to mainstream rainwater harvesting in the village’s water security plan. As the village now works towards recharging other water sources, rainwater harvesting turns out to be a sustainable solution, something that can also be used during emergency situations such as forest fires.