To commemorate, World Water Day on 22nd March this year, International Rainwater Harvesting Alliance (IRHA) organised rainwater harvesting awareness raising activities in a few schools in India and Nepal. Children and teachers were educated about rainwater harvesting, given information on IRHA’s Blue Schools Programme, and also had fun in the “Catch the Rain” art competition!
IRHA’s local partners, Deepalaya (Delhi) and Project AROEHAN (Maharashtra) took the responsibility of organizing the activity in India while Kanchan Nepal did it in Nepal. Faber Castell India provided all the painting materials for the art competition and also the prizes to the 14 schools in India.
According to Mr Bhalchandra Salve, Education Coordinator of AROEHAN, 11 schools in Mokhada Taluk, Thane District, Maharashtra were covered. For the art competition, the children could choose from four topics – Warli art, Nature scene, Rain scene and Common water source.
The Government Ashram School Chas was one of the participating schools. About 35 children from Standards 5 to 9, trained by art teacher Mr Wargade (an alumnus of Mumbai’s reputed JJ School of Art), were excited to take part in the competition.
Thanks to IRHA and AROEHAN, I had the opportunity of visiting Chas and other villages of Mokhada and neighbouring Jawhar Taluk, and getting to know bits about the lives of the local people.
Office building of the Government Ashram School Chas
World Water Day 2013 – Painting Competition
AROEHAN’s Mr Salve gives some instructions
Concentration on the drawing
Art master Mr Wargade watches as the children draw
Chas is a small tribal village with a population of about 2500, located about 2 km from Mokhada town in Thane District of Maharashtra. Spread over about 1600 hectares of hilly terrain, this village, like the others in Mokhada, is a heavy rain precipitation area, receiving 100-300 mm during the monsoons. However, the dry months of December to May are those of acute water deprivation. At this time, many of the wells in the valleys have water and streams are flowing, but people have to trudge distances of 1-2 km to reach the water source and then carry the water back to their homes, usually uphill. Several trips are made per day. It is no wonder that everyone looks slim and trim. Shining water pots are like an essential accessory. Scenes of colourful women balancing water pots on their heads are common in films and paintings. I saw them many times over, for real, in Mokhada.
On the hill slopes, not much has been done to retain the rain water and people I spoke to say that as the land is rocky, the water doesn’t penetrate the earth and runs off quickly. Piped water is more-or-less absent. In places that do have water pumps that connect wells to storage tanks, intermittent electric power and periodic load-shedding often renders them not usable. Thus, from a young age, children see that water is precious and are forced to use it judiciously.
Map of Thane District, Maharashtra, India
Many houses have walls made with Karvy tree twigs and then plastered with mud (Location: Village Aase)
A pucca brick house, where we had lunch cooked by AROEHAN worker Yadav’s mother (Location: Village Aase)
Our lunch of rice, dhal and papad. Sharad Govind (our driver from AROEHAN Jawhar), Bhalchandra Salve (from AROEHAN) and me.
Hay saved for the rainy season is stacked above the ground to prevent the animals from eating it up
Parched hilly terrain
Streams in the valleys enable some cultivation
Off to get some water
Community wells are the main source of water
Pots are like an essential accessory (Location: Jawhar bus stand)
The Government Ashram School Chas is a residential high school, upto Standard 10, with about 500 girls and boys. Spread across a few acres, the sprawling grounds contain the school office, classrooms (that double up as boys’ dorms), dorms for the girls, library-cum-computer room, kitchen, staff quarters, toilets, solar panels for water heating, a 30,000 litre overhead water storage tank, playground equipment, gardening patches and other infrastructure. However, because of the water problems of Mokhada, many of these are in a state of disuse and/or disrepair.
Curious children, wondering who this unfamiliar face in the school premises was
Classrooms that double up as boys’ dorms
Kitchen, girls’ dorms and other rooms located at one end of the campus
The Kho-kho grounds in front of the classrooms
30,000 litre water tank serves the needs of one day
Taps in the school often run dry. “Another drop is all that I need”
Boys’ toilets, abandoned because of lack of water
Space earmarked for a vegetable garden, not in use because of lack of water
Solar water heating plant, not in use because of lack of water
Rainwater harvesting and water reuse infrastructure is totally absent.
If implemented, this could prove to be very successful in improving the quality of life of all those connected with the school.
Text and pictures: Arathi Manay