WA­TER GANDHI

WIN­NER: Wa­ter Lit­er­acy Foun­da­tion (WLF) and Ayyappa Masagi WHY IT WON: The WLF’s pan-In­dia ini­tia­tives have helped farm­ers with wa­ter-con­ser­va­tion tech­niques

India Today - - SAFAIGIRI AWARDS - —Amar­nath K. Menon

ANATIVE OF THE drought-prone dis­trict of Gadag, Kar­nataka, Ayyappa Masagi, now 62, would, as a child, ac­com­pany his mother to fetch wa­ter from a dis­tant well. Since 2000, Masagi has been deeply in­volved in help­ing poor farm­ers man­age their wa­ter. His meth­ods, along with con­struc­tion of phys­i­cal struc­tures for wa­ter man­age­ment, have helped farm­ers re­duce the im­pact of droughts and se­cure sus­tain­able wa­ter sources.

What be­gan as the Jala Sak­sharatha An­dolan in Gadag in 2000 is to­day the Wa­ter Lit­er­acy Foun­da­tion (WLF), work­ing in 14 states to cre­ate aware­ness and im­prove wa­ter qual­ity and avail­abil­ity by har­vest­ing rain­wa­ter and recharg­ing ground­wa­ter sources.

Wa­ter scarcity, Masagi says, presents a se­ri­ous threat to the more than 800 mil­lion In­di­ans who make a liv­ing through farm­ing. “It is es­ti­mated that more than half of the rain­fall Kar­nataka re­ceives runs off into the sea. Barely seven per cent of the to­tal an­nual rain­fall makes its way into ground­wa­ter sup­plies. Pol­lu­tion and in­creased con­sump­tion, along with in­ef­fi­cient man­age­ment, has made clean wa­ter a scare re­source in In­dia,” he says.

Over the years, WLF has im­ple­mented turnkey rain­wa­ter con­ser­va­tion projects at more than 4,200 lo­ca­tions. Masagi’s work has touched so many lives that many call him Wa­ter Gandhi. “The real mis­sion is to erad­i­cate wa­ter poverty. We have a long jour­ney ahead to be­come a wa­ter-re­spon­si­ble na­tion,” says Masagi. ■

HE­MANT MISHRA

PUMP IT UP Masagi at a work site off Ben­galuru

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