WSJ examines project aimed at delivering drinking water to populations in India, China

The Wall Street Journal examines how a "rainwater harvesting project," called Aakash Ganga is delivering water to India's northern state of Rajasthan - one of the driest states in India -  and expanding into China's Guiyang Municipality. The original project, supported by the World Bank, is set to expand from six villages in Rajasthan to "70 villages, to provide water security to 200,000 people," the newspaper writes.

"Water is the most serious crisis of Independent India," said B.P. Agrawal, the president of Sustainable Innovations - a non-profit corporation aiming to make safe water and health care more available. "'A plethora of initiatives (water harvesting, water conservation, soil conservation, etc.) exists across India, and many of them are very successful,' says S. Vishwanath a civil engineer and urban and regional planner, who runs Rainwater Club, a website dedicated to rainwater harvesting. 'One needs to look at these initiatives not only technically but also in terms of water literacy and empowerment. It is about people's understanding of water and how they go ahead to manage it.'"

While China's Guiyang Municipality is not as dry as Rajasthan, its population also struggles to access clean drinking water because water springs - the region's main source of drinking water - have been contaminated by pesticides and fertilizers, according to Agrawal. The Asian Development Bank in March awarded $50,000 to Aakash Ganga for a pilot study aimed at demonstrating "the full potential of Aakash Ganga self-sustaining rainwater harvesting" in the Guiyang region.

The article also examines the impact Aakash Ganga has made on Indian villages, from allowing for women and girls - who previously had to travel great distances to collect water - to take jobs and return to school to increasing the number of "kitchen gardens, which in turn will improve household nutrition and health conditions."

Though "Aakash Ganga may be a success," it is "really a drop in the ocean," in terms of overcoming India's water problems, the newspaper writes. "Per capita availability of fresh water continues to decline in the country. Many challenges remain, given the changing nature of the water situation, what with climate change-related issues, our economic growth, urbanization and the need to have food security over the next three decades for up to 1.5 billion people," Rohini Nilekani, chairperson of Arghyam, a foundation working in the water sector, said. "We need to deepen an informed public discourse on these issues because, whether we like it or not, the situation calls for restraint on water use in the face of competing claims for a finite resource" (7/7).


Kaisernetwork.orgThis article is republished with kind permission from our friends at The Kaiser Family Foundation. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery of in-depth coverage of health policy developments, debates and discussions. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for Kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Copyright 2009 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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