At a time when most people believe that the world is running out of water, and Nasa is looking for water elsewhere in the universe, Dr. Ayyappa Masagi’s message is simple yet eye-opening. There is enough water for everybody on this planet, provided we use this precious resource judiciously. In other words, greed and waste are the easiest way to turn this ample resource into a scarce one. India’s ‘Water Warrior’ speaks to Rohan Ramesh as to why he has dedicated his life to save this precious resource.
Water is his burning passion and obsession, and thousands of people should be thankful for the torch for h2O that burns deep within him. His conservation experiments have brought him worldwide fame. People call him Water Warrior, Water Gandhi, and of course, the Doctor of barren bore wells.
“As most of us know water is a scarce commodity and that is the reason I am actively involved in water conservation,” says Dr. Masagi. He has motivated the construction of hundreds of lakes, water conservation systems, helped recharge more than a thousand borewells that had gone dry. Dr. Masagi is also mentioned in the Limca book of World Records for the very fact that he constructed more than 700 artificial lakes!
Although from the rural area, Dr. Masagi, unlike many activists, believes in interacting with industry and address their water problems, because of the belief that lack of engagement with industry could only worsen he water crisis. After all industry is a major consumer of water, and also is quite wasteful. What is more, industry is also the major polluter of water and water sources.
“I believe that we must involve the private industry as they happen to be the largest consumers of water. A lot of companies have happily supported me in my endeavor and I have helped them in their CSR activities.”
A mechanical engineer by profession, Dr. Masagi left his job at Larsen and Toubro to help bring water conservation techniques to the masses. “We have organized more than 5000 programs like water awareness campaigns, rallies and workshops.
He is so well known that he and his team have been involved in projects spanning 13 states across the country. “We have constructed or advised on projects in over 13 states in India.”
And what does not like about his job? “The government obviously!” he says. “No government from the state or the centre has ever supported me.” And why is that? “Because I’m a problem solver, the government wants problems to exist,” he says.
And he leads by example. Dr. Masagi’s own 3 storey home is modified to conserve water. The urine from the bathrooms in his house is collected and sent to his farm where it is used as manure. The bath water is collected in a pit constructed near the house which helps recharge nearby groundwater.
“In my farm too I only practice organic agriculture. I have a bio-gas unit on the farm as well. I believe in Cow-based agriculture. The fecal matter of the animals is excellent manure.”
It all began when Dr. Masagi had 100 coconut trees on his farm. “One was quite sickly compared to the others. Therefore I started collecting urine from my house and began transporting it to my farm to water this particular tree. Today I have 400 extremely healthy coconut trees and a workable technique,” he says with pride.
With Bengaluru facing a water crisis in the near future, Dr. Masagi says that if certain techniques were adopted by every household in the city, we could stop depending on Cauvery water altogether.
“Every house must have a rooftop rainwater harvesting unit. People must also construct a grey water pit where all the water used for bath is collected and which will help recharge groundwater. Another thing is to recharge bore wells and desilt lakes. If we do these things then we can ensure that Bengaluru is a water sufficient city and we won’t have to depend on the river Cauvery.”
Asked if grey water pits could be harmful to the environment, Dr. Masagi replied in the negative. He says grey water pits help recharge nearby areas. “The phosphate from soaps and detergents is not an issue,” he stresses. “After all where does phosphate come from? It comes from the soil. The trees and plants will only be absorbing what originally comes from Mother Nature’s,” he says.
Dr. Masagi stresses that the techniques he uses were the same that were used by our forefathers. “The rest is all my own research and development,” he adds. And what went wrong all these years when it came to water conservation? “ If people and the community’s attitude is positive then good things can happen. But you know the general apathy and attitude of common people and community. It is people’s attitude that matters.”
Dr. Ayappa Masagi is a former Mechanical engineer who provides affordable community service through his organisations Water Literacy Foundation and Rain Water Concepts. His aim is to make India a water efficient nation.
- Dr. Masagi has created more than 700 artificial lakes and recharged more than a thousand borewells, a fact for which he finds a mention in the Limca Book of World Records
- WLF and RWC have organised more than 5000 programmes like water awareness campaigns, rallies, workshops and visits to demo sites.
- Both RWC and WLF have implemented turnkey projects at over 6000 locations including more than 100 industries, 200 apartment complexes, 15 luxury villas, numerous individual houses, educational institutions and projects in rural areas.
- Dr. Masagi's initiatives have resulted in the conversion of more than 25,000 hectares of dry land into wet land using rainwater and grey water harvesting.
- ISKCON, MVIT engineering college, Wipro, Tata, PepsiCo, Volvo buses and trucks, Golden Palms Hotels and Spa are a few institutions that have consulted Dr. Masagi.
- He also teaches farmers organic farming and tree-based agriculture.