‘India’s waterman’ Rajendra Singh wins ‘Nobel prize for water’ 2015

An Indian campaigner from Alwar district in Rajasthan has been conferred “the Nobel Prize for water 2015” award for bringing water to 1,000 villages.

Rajendra Singh, dubbed “the Water Man of India,” has been awarded this prestigious 2015 Stockholm Water Prize for his consistent and innovative efforts in Rajasthan to save water in rural areas. He used a modern version of the ancient Indian technique of rainwater harvesting to address the problem of water crisis in arid Rajasthan. It involved building low-level banks of earth to hold back the flow of water in the wet season and allow water to seep into the ground for future use.

The judges of the Stockholm Water Prize said that his “cheap and simple” methods prevented floods, restored soil and rivers, and brought back wildlife. They added that his methods should be followed worldwide.

The Stockholm Water Prize, founded in 1991 is presented annually by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) to an individual, organisation or institution for outstanding water-conservation achievements and it carries a cash amount of $150,000 (approx. £100,000) and a specially designed sculpture.

rajendra singh

Singh, who first trained as a medic, took up a post in a village in Rajasthan when he was told that the greatest need in the region was not health care but drinking water.

He said that when he started working, they were only looking at resolving the drinking water crisis. However, Singh added that the aim today was higher and that he intended to convert the war on water into peace in a century marked by “exploitation, pollution and encroachment.”

Previously, Rajendra Singh won the Ramon Magsaysay Award for community leadership in 2001 for his pioneering work in community-based efforts in water harvesting and water management. He runs an NGO called ‘Tarun Bharat Sangh’ (TBS), which was founded in 1975.

Starting from a single village in 1985, over the years TBS helped build over 8,600 johads and other water conservation structures to collect rainwater for the dry seasons, has brought water back to over 1,000 villages and revived five rivers in Rajasthan, Arvari, Ruparel, Sarsa, Bhagani and Jahajwal.

Sharanya Bharathwaj