In 2015, Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis deputed his principal secretary Praveen Pardeshi, a senior IAS official, to convince actor Aamir Khan to get involved in the state’s flagship water conservation scheme, Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan. The next year, Paani Foundation, an NGO founded by a team of the TV series Satyamev Jayate, led by Khan and his wife Kiran Rao, started working towards eradicating water scarcity with people’s participation.
With ‘Toofan aalayaa’ (the storm has arrived) as its theme song, Paani Foundation has literally stormed public minds with its message of water conservation and shramdaan (voluntary contribution involving physical work) in 24 out of Maharashtra’s 38 districts in the past three years.
The foundation has created training films, an Android app as well as training manuals to spread public awareness. It also conducts an annual competition, the Satyamev Jayate Water Cup, in which villages compete to win prizes for the best watershed management and water conservation project. Beginning with three talukas and 116 villages in 2016, the cup grew 25 times in 2018 to reach 75 talukas and 4,025 villages in Maharashtra. The work carried out during the competition this year resulted in 3,521,870 new saplings, which have been nurtured in village nurseries, and an annual water harvesting capacity of 22,269 crore litres.
LABOUR OF LOVE Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao help build watershed structures in Solapur, Maharashtra