India's Rajendra Singh Bags 'Nobel Prize For Water': Here's How He Saved Thousands Of Lives


Rajendra Singh is considered by many people to be the "water man of India" and he has now been awarded this year's annual Stockholm Water Prize.

The Tarun Bharat Sangh organization, of which Singh is a part, has worked to save rivers around the subcontinent. Traditional rainwater collection methods are among the techniques being used by the group in order to rescue waterways threatened by a variety of dangers.

Singh was an ayurvedic doctor when when started on his crusade to save rivers and other bodies of water around India. He joined Tarun Bharat Sangh in 1981, and three years later, the entire board of the organization resigned after being grilled by Singh on their activities. In order to support the mission of the group, the activist sold his household goods.

Five rivers in Rajasthan were saved by Singh, along with help from villagers who helped the activist build dams and 8,600 rainwater storage tanks known as johads.

"Through the Indian wisdom of rainwater harvesting, we have made helpless, abandoned, destitute and impoverished villages prosperous and healthy again," Singh said.

Another success story is found in the Arvari River, which had not run for six decades. In 1986, Singh constructed a storage tank on the river, in order to restore the waterway to its original condition. Water flow was restored through the construction of 375 check dams, and was running regularly by 1995.

The Loharinag Pala hydropower project and other planned construction on water which could harm the environment were also stopped after being targeted by Singh.

Singh led a walkathon through the city of Mumbai in 2009, in an effort to bring attention to the problems of water supply in the Mithi River.

The traditional rainwater collection methods championed by Singh fell out of widespread use during the era when India was ruled by England. However, they have proven effective at bring waterways back to pristene conditions under the guidance of Singh.

The World Bank and other large institutions have come out opposing actions by the activist, claiming that India needs to return to constructing large dams, in order to provide electrical power to homes and businesses.

The environmental activist, born in 1959, will receive $150,000 from Carl Gustav, the king of Sweden, on August 26, during World Water Week.

"Mr Singh is a beacon of hope. He has literally brought villages back to life. We need to take Mr Singh's lessons and actions to heart if we are to achieve sustainable water use in our lifetime," Torgny Holmgren, executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute (Siwi) said.

Photo: Lyle Vincent | Flickr

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