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‘50% of patients across the globe suffer from water-borne diseases’

Madhur Tankha
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Water warrior:Jacqueline Lundquist
Water warrior:Jacqueline Lundquist

Jacqueline Lundquist, a social activist and the wife of the former United States Ambassador to India Richard Celeste, is now on an ambitious mission to provide unadulterated water to people living across the country, especially in rural areas.

As the Water Health International (WHI) chief serendipity officer, Ms. Lundquist is already providing pollution-free water to a multitude of people living in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Gujarat.

“My plan is to expand this water initiative programme to other parts of the country. It is important for make clean drinking water accessible to everyone. For example, people in the United States get drinking water even in their bathrooms. In order to achieve our objective in India, we feel the old network of pipe system is impractical and needs to be done away with. Modernisation and innovation in water plants are essential prerequisites if we have to achieve our objective.”

She will launch the Jaldhaara Foundation, an initiative of the WHI seeking to provide a platform to anyone willing to work in the water sector, in Hyderabad on January 3.

A host of celebrities from the U.S. and India will be present at the launch. Emmy award winning actor Jon Cryer of Two and a Half Men fame, talk show host Lisa Joyner; playwright Gretchen Cryer and producer John H. Williams are expected to attend, while Bollywood will be represented by actors Jackie Shroff, Dia Mirza and Gulshan Grover.

Over the years, Ms. Lundquist has been taking Americans to interesting places in India. And they have, in return, shown their philanthropic side by helping with the funds for the water programme.

Pointing out that Water Health India, a subsidiary of WHI, came into the existence in 2006 with a vision to provide safe, scalable and affordable drinking water to the underserved communities in the country, Ms. Lundquist said since the seven years of its operation Water Health India has successfully launched over 500 water health centres across 36 districts of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. “We are providing safe drinking water access to almost five million people.”

To emphasise the urgency of providing clean water to every person, Ms. Lundquist says 50 per cent of patients convalescing in hospitals across the globe suffer from water-borne diseases.

Since women’s empowerment is another issue close to Ms. Lundquist’s heart, she has entrusted Indian women living in rural areas to manage water plants in the four States.

“These rural women are mature and wise. They use the income earned from working in these plants to meet the educational expenditure of their children. This way, education, an important component for the overall growth of young mature minds, is also being given a priority. Therefore, one thing leads to another.”

Apart from social work, Ms. Lundquist has been busy with other activities. She penned a book titled Letters from Vietnam: A Daughter’s Search For Her Father about her father, who “survived the Vietnam war only to die of a heart attack later on.”

She was only four when her father passed away. “While he was in Vietnam from June 1967 to June 1968, my father wrote extensively and also sent audio messages to my mother. He died young at the age of 38. I never opened his letters, but years later I decided to go through them. My publisher wanted me to go to Vietnam to get a feel of the place.”


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