India’s Water Man Rajendra Singh wins Stockholm Water Prize

Rajendra Singh, an eminent environment activist, has been conferred the prestigious Stockholm Water Prize this year for his innovative water restoration efforts and extraordinary courage to empower communities in Indian villages.

Singh, who is widely popular as the ‘Water Man’, was named the 2015 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate for improving water security in rural India, and for showing extraordinary courage and determination in his quest to improve the living conditions for those most in need, a statement said.

While the Nobel Peace Prize may applaud many great acts of human kindness and perseverance, not every year’s winners are designated as those that feed the masses or even bring essential components of life, such as water, to those in need. In order to applaud these efforts, the Stockholm Water Prize was created as the unofficial “Nobel Prize for water”, and each year it recognizes those fighting in the most impoverished nations for potable water to be brought to masses. This year’s laureate, however, is one for the record books as he alone has brought water to 1,000 villages across northern India.

Born in 1959, Rajasthan-based Singh for several decades have dedicated himself to defeating drought and empowering communities. Singh’s real work began when he was assigned to a rural village in arid Rajasthan and realized that the true need wasn’t for healthcare-it was for potable water. Without water the people and the animals could not survive, the wildlife left and the farmers were left destitute. This is how his work began.

Since his mission began Singh has brought water to many villages in India, utilizing modern versions of an ancient Indian technique of rainwater harvesting. Not only is it effective in allowing farmers to hold back the flow of water in the wet season for use at another time, but the judges of the award say that it is simple, cheap and is a beacon of hope for other efforts around the world.

“Today’s water problems cannot be solved by science or technology alone. They are human problems of governance, policy, leadership and social resilience” the judges of the award with the Stockholm International Water Institute say. “Rajendra Singh’s life work has been in building social capacity to solve local water problems through participatory action, empowerment of women, linking indigenous know-how with modern scientific and technical approaches and upending traditional patterns of development and resource use.”

Many water engineers around the world applaud Singh’s efforts and the vast scale of work that one man as been able to accomplish, however, his work is not done. And the world still waits to see what else “The Water Man of India” is able to do.

“In a world where demand for freshwater is booming, we will face a sever water crisis within decades if we do not learn how to better take care of our water” director of the Stockholm International Water Institute, Torgny Holmgren says. “Mr. Singh is a beacon of hope.”

Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf, Patron of the Stockholm Water Prize, will present the prize to Singh at a Royal Award Ceremony during 2015 World Water Week here on August 26, it added.

In its citation, The Stockholm Water Prize Committee said that “today’s water problems cannot be solved by science or technology alone. They are instead human problems of governance, policy, leadership, and social resilience.”

“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.”

On receiving the news about the prize, Singh said “this is very encouraging, energising and inspiring news.”

“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,” he said.

He has already won Ramon Magsaysay award in 2001 for his work on community-based water harvesting and water management.

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.

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About the Author: Akhtar Jamal

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