We want water, not healthcare’
Born in 1959, Rajendra Singh studied Ayurvedic medicine and surgery and then went to work in the arid and poor interiors of Rajasthan. His goal was to set up health centers in these areas but upon closer interaction with the locals, he realised that their greatest need was water, not health care. The wells in all surrounding areas were dry, no crops grew and hence there was an exodus of people to the
nearby cities. The women, children and elderly were left behind to fend for themselves. Rajendra Singh then dropped the idea of building health centers and decided to focus on water.
Building Water Structures
He teamed up with the villagers and started building traditional mud dams (called johads). After about 20 years of his relentless work, there are now 8,600 johads and other structures that collect water! His work has led to access to water for over 1,000 villages across Rajasthan. As a consequence, many rivers have been replenished and the forest cover has increased too.
Interestingly, Rajendra Singh resorted to thousand-year old methods of collecting rainwater and storing it. These methods were forgotten and discountinued during the British empire’s rule over India, but have now brought water back to the driest state of India.
“When we started our work, we were only looking at the drinking water crisis and how to solve that. Today our aim is higher. This is the 21st century. This is the century of exploitation, pollution and encroachment. To stop all this, to convert the war on water into peace, that is my life’s goal”, says Mr Singh.
He goes on to say:
“Due to the harvesting of rain and recharging groundwater, there is no scope for drought or floods in our area. This work of ours is a way to solve both floods and droughts globally. Therefore we believe the impact of this work is on the local level, national level, the international level and above all at the village level.”
H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, Patron of the Stockholm Water Prize, will present the prize to Rajendra Singh at a Royal Award Ceremony during 2015 World Water Week in Stockholm on 26 August.
About Stockholm Water Prize
The Stockholm Water Prize is a global award founded in 1991 and presented annually by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) to an individual, organisation or institution for outstanding water-related achievements. The Stockholm Water Prize Laureate receives USD 150,000 and a specially designed sculpture. H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden is patron of the prize.