An act of compassion for summer

Compassion and sensitivity. Photo: Special arrangement  

It was in January 2013 that Sanjana Govindan Jayadev, the head of funding and communications for an international non-profit organisation, noticed that the street dogs she fed everyday looked increasingly tired and thirsty. “Bangalore had begun heating up and I saw one of the street dogs drinking from a puddle of cow urine in a desperate bid to quench his thirst.”

Instinctively, Sanjana put out a bucket of water. But, it didn’t feel like a practical solution and she decided to look up what others had done to help street dogs in the summer. “I came across In Defense of Animals in Mumbai and their idea of putting out water bowls made of concrete made sense and so, I got my first bowl from the Siddapura nursery close to my home. Cows, dogs, birds, squirrels and even bats in the evening started coming to drink water. The people I spoke to understood the power of the idea and I decided to put more bowls out and encourage more people,” she says.

Sanjana crowdfunded for the first set of bowls on Wishberry and soon joined hands with Sunil Om with whom she founded the Water Bowl Project. “Together we have been able to solve many of our supply chain and logistic issues. Sunil works with a mason and sources cement bowls at a cost. As for me, I only supply terrcotta bowls made by Maati Terracotta, founded by Shashi Bagchi, who provides the bowls to us at a cost,” says Sanjana.

The Water Bowl Project operates through its social media channels and website, where citizen volunteers contact the stakeholders requesting for a bowl. “We speak to them and understand their requirements. We then figure out a mutually convenient delivery schedule,” says Sanjana. “For those who can pay, a terracotta bowl costs Rs. 200 and a cement bowl costs Rs. 100. Often times we supply bowls to shops or small homes that house stray dogs and other animals, but don’t have the resources to pay for the bowls,” she adds.

The number of lakes and green spaces in the city has considerably reduced and with it the source of drinking water for animals and birds has come down drastically. Severely parched birds and animals in the summer are a heart wrenching sight and a small bowl of clean drinking water can go a long way in making the summer months bearable for them. “Putting water bowls in your balcony, outside your home or office can bring dogs and other animals good health. This also battles the issue of premature death caused by dehydration in the summer,” Sanjana adds.

“We now have about 500 bowls in circulation. Most bowls are adopted by homes with animal lovers who typically have a routine of feeding stray dogs, cats, birds etc. Given the feedback from water bowl volunteers, our understanding is that each bowl sustains at least five animals, which means there are close to 3,000 animals in the city that are little less thirsty,” she says.

The Water Bowl Project isn’t just an initiative about showing compassion, but also about ethically combating the social and environmental challenges encountered in putting out a clean bowl of water for city animals. “From getting the bowl design right to working with an ethical supply chain and ensuring that the bowls are not abandoned or misused, a lot of thought has gone into the process,” says Sanjana.

While terracotta bowls are eco-friendly and decompose when buried in earth, it’s not the same with cement bowls. However, cement bowls are more affordable and practical in areas with high human and road traffic. Since they are hard to knock over, they’re also more practical for people who keep water for cows. The project seeks to resolve the environmental challenges it faces and bring down its carbon footprint with each year.

“We also want to work with schools and teachers who are interested in implementing these ideas in their classroom. We hope to tackle other challenges like food waste and garbage and start a feeding programme as well. The Water Bowl Project is, above all, about compassion and sensitivity – the act of filling a bowl of water for someone who can’t access it and really needs it and that has the power to change you a little bit,” shares Sanjana.

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Printable version | Jun 17, 2021 7:55:53 PM |

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