The ongoing drought across 11 states in India makes daily headlines, reiterating the need for quick and innovative solutions to conserve water and take collective action for people directly affected by it. While children are undoubtedly the most affected and vulnerable to the ravages of drought, it is heartening to see children across Maharashtra take on the lead as water warriors, bringing promise and hope in times of despair.
Over 7,000 students and staff members from different schools in Pune have been contributing their leftover water back to their schools for watering plants and cleaning toilets, tasks that were earlier done using fresh water. Many more children are gradually joining the cause. Children across Maharashtra’s schools are beginning to implement this simple but highly effective method of conserving water, at a time when the rest of the state is reeling from drought. What they do is simple: they collect leftover water from their water bottles in a large drum installed in their school. This water replaces the fresh water used to water the plants and clean the school premises. “Our aim is to reach 10,000 children. We have already reached 7,000. Our campaign aims to educate kids about the importance of water and also make sustainable use of the available resources. The simple idea of collecting leftover water in a drum at the end of the day will not only provide an alternative way for water conservation but also help kids understand the concept of sustainable development and use of alternatives,” said Vedant Goel and Yusuf Soni, entrepreneurs of this initiative.
It was a presentation on the drought in Marathwada that really brought home the scale of the crisis for students like Yaashree, from the Cathedral & John Connon School in Mumbai. Powerful pictures of parched lands, abandoned children, some younger than they are, motivated them to raise funds on their own. In the last six months, the students have raised a little over Rs 20 lakh through school events, a fashion show, selling T- shirts and donated to drought relief in Marathwada. “The students, jolted by scenes of parched lands, abandoned children, some younger than them, raised funds. They also pooled in money set aside for sports and social events and even raised funds by selling T-shirts,” said Principal Meera Isaacs.
The Vidyanidhi Educational Complex also set up a large storage drum for water collection in its campus. What’s more, the school has appointed a few students to be a part of a ‘water conservation squad’, an initiative that excites children, especially with special badges on their uniform. At the end of the school-day everyday, students are encouraged to pour out all the water left out in their bottles into the drum. Laxmi Shetty is a fifth grader in the school who is quite enthusiastic about the campaign. “We store the leftover water from our water bottles in the water bank. Every child has to do this without fail before leaving the school.” Chirag Jadhav, in Class 8, is a part of the squad which keeps a lookout for leaking or open taps all day. “There are 20 students in the squad, from Std V-IX. We check taps in the morning – if they are open or leaking – and also before and after recess and end of the day,” he says, his eyes brimming with pride.
City Pride School has put a simple yet effective mechanism in place where it collects unused water from students and utilises that to combat water crisis. Incubated by the environment committee of the school,comprising 10 teachers from classes I to X and 20 students, two from classes VI to X, their idea was based on the insight that students tend to throw the remaining water from their bottles once school gets over. Assuming every student has 200 ml of water left at the end of the day, collecting it instead of wasting it made sense. As a result, the school has buckets placed at every entry and exit points where students deposit the remaining water from their bottles at the end of the day. With around 300-400 litres of water saved everyday, it is used to mop the floors, water the lawns and maintain the ground.