Dr. Rajendra Singh, more popularly known as the “Waterman of India” is an outstanding Ramon Magsaysay Award winning water conservationist from India who trained as an Ayurvedic doctor, only to resign and start an NGO called Tarun Bharat Sangh (TBS). He and his NGO TBS has built close to 12,000 johads - large community owned dams/reservoirs made of earth and rocks. The johad concept dates back to 1500 BC that helps to hold runoff from monsoon rains which go on to help water percolate into the ground, thereby improving the water table. Through severe draining of groundwater, the Indian state of Rajasthan started to experience crop failures, rivers began to dry up, forests and wildlife disappeared and people abandoned farm work and migrated to urban centers.
Dr. Rajendra Singh’s pioneering work helped rejuvenate dried up wells and rivers across hundreds of villages in Alwar District of Rajasthan, India. In Alwar, water problem is now history.
Photograph of Dr. Rajendra Singh by Mullookkaaran available at https://commons.wikimedia.org
Dr. Rajendra Singh believes that water will be the cause for the World War III.
But it is not his belief, or the consequences therefrom, that causes me to write about him. It is not even the need to replicate his work in Bhutan, that provokes me to draw attention to his pioneering work. It is the other impact that his work has had on the villages of Alwar, Rajasthan:
As a result of rivers getting rejuvenated and dried up wells getting refilled with percolated rainwater, youth who had migrated to urban centers began to return to their villages to take up farming and farm work. Parched and fallow agriculture lands began to be filled with greenery. There hasn’t been drought or flooding in Alwar region for the past many years.
Bhutan too is in dire need of one Dr. Rajendra Singh!
No, not to build johads on our hilltops - but to represent poor rural Bhutanese farmers’ interest in the two law making bodies of the Bhutanese Parliament. We need one Dr. Rajendra Singh to bring some semblance of rationality in our wildlife conservation Acts and laws. In the last 10 years since democracy, not one of the seventy two sitting Parliamentarians have cared to address the issues arising out of the disparate nature of our conservation laws.
Year after year, the incidence of Goongtong is on the rise; villages are emptied of young farm hands, farm lands are left fallow; agriculture production is falling; urban centers are getting clogged with economic migrants from rural villages. City dwellers are turned into paupers - in supporting the influx of migrating rural relatives.
Goongtong: Deserted rural homes and fallow agriculture land - farmers surrender to the onslaught of wildlife predation and migrate to urban centers, to seek out alternate life and livelihood.
We need one Dr. Rajendra Singh to help rationalize our outdated conservation laws. We need one Dr. Rajendra Singh to tell the lawmakers that conservation is not about giving primacy to the wild animals, over human animals. We need one Dr. Rajendra Singh to tell the lawmakers that conservation will ultimately suffer if it favors one specie over others because a law that is shorn of equilibrium will espouse retaliatory action from the victimized species.
Farmers resort to employing stuffed synthetic tigers from China - to keep guard over their plantation - while they try to get some rest and sleep from a gruelling day's work.
We need one Dr. Rajendra Singh to urgently do something to try and halt the rural-urban migration. We need one Dr. Rajendra Singh to start our own process of reverse migration, before the exercise becomes too expensive.