Meet Rajasthan’s ‘water inspectors’ who are part of the school brigade that teaches others the need to conserve water
Summer’s scorching temperature and blazing heat unsettles even the toughest ones. In Rajasthan, however, the story is different where people are programmed to make truce with the sun and the arid landscape to carry on with their lives. Young girls, especially, bear the brunt in rural areas as they have to traverse long distances in search of water — thus kept out of schools.
But times are changing. Both in rural and urban areas, where education has become imperative for children, lessons on water and its conservation have assumed priority. With children understanding the necessity of water management early in life, hopes for a better future are shaping up.
Radhika’s identity is not just of a regular school-going kid in Jaipur. Being the ‘Water Inspector’ in her school, her duty is to check water wastage and she carries it out with sincerity. All but five-year-old, she already has realised that water is life.
And all thanks to her school, where environment consciousness is ingrained right from the pre-school days. Says Principal Neera Mathur of Maharaja Sawai Man Singh Vidyalaya: “We believe in a relationship between the child and the environment and try to develop it right from the beginning. And with water being so scarce in Rajasthan, it is important to make the child learn early that water is precious and unless we save it now, there won’t be any left for them in the future.”
So a leaking water tap is sacrilege in this school. Even if the school authorities miss it, students point out the anomaly immediately and get it fixed.
Realising that merely asking students to save water is not enough, schools are devising innovative lessons to get the students involved in water conservation which is one of the first lessons the students learn. The idea is to conserve and recycle water. For this, the classes in a Jaipur school are divided into groups and ‘Water Inspectors’ are chosen, who evaluate the ideas of other students and then prepare a final list of ways of water saving. Putting their thoughts together on paper, regular classes also involve drawing posters on water conservation. They also advise school authorities to plant more plants for a greener tomorrow.
Ms. Mathur points out: “This gives them a feeling of involvement, which would not come otherwise from just learning theory about conservation. We try to keep the child at the centre of our endeavour of conservation — be it water, environment or heritage. If they are made to value water early, the habit will stay on with them and ultimately yield aware citizens.”
These Water Inspectors’ not only keep a watch on their school, but also on their homes and neighbourhoods. Says Arushi, a class III student: “I ask my mother not to keep plants in this desert which need more water and not to wash the driveway every day. Not to keep the tap on while brushing teeth. Because I have to report back to school everyday about how well did I inspect my home and neighbourhood by maintaining a water chart.”
Many others schools like Vidyaashram, Maharani Gayatri Devi Girls’ School, Delhi Public School, Tagore Public schools in Jaipur and in other parts of Rajasthan have the concept of Varun Dhoots (water ambassadors), who spread the message of conservation.
Ananya Sharma, a Varun Dhoot, says: “The first step is to improve ourselves. Then comes improving and making others realise the value of water in our lives. In our school, as a water ambassador, I have a group who plan every week, how to inspire other students and check water wastage in school, home and neighbourhood.”
She adds: “In Rajasthan, there is almost no water in dams, water bodies and lakes as the rainfall is never adequate. There is excessive pressure on groundwater for agriculture and other uses and as a result, out of 237 blocks, 204 blocks in the State are in the dark zone, which indicates a bleak future for us. Amongst the driest States of India, it receives as little as 100 mm of average annual rainfall in the western parts of the State. Daily temperatures can reach as high as 48°C in the summer.”
Charan Jeet Dhillon, director of Bal Bhawan in Jaipur, who has been instrumental in organising Jal Mahotsav for school students in Rajasthan, says: “It is imperative that students appreciate water first. They must feel water first. Whatever they do about water conservation, they must do it happily. It can never be imposed on them.”
So at these Jal Mahotsavs, children congregate and learn to analyse, think and understand the current problem of water scarcity. They express themselves through dance, drama, song, posters, banner, painting and scientific innovations on water conservations and water harvesting.
Rajasthan is not only educating their students about saving water but environment as well. The Centre for Environment Education (CEE) and Rajasthan State Bharat Scouts and Guides jointly organised a school campaign in February this year. The objective was to help some of the schools to become Paryavaran Mitra Lead Schools for their districts.