On 22nd March 2021 - World Water Day of 2021 marked the birth of a movement, a non profit initiative called Jjala Ssmruti Foundation. This is the story of how this water baby was born following a three and a half year long process of experimenting, action learning & reflecting following direct engagement with the grasroots - the community in urban and rural sector and the water solution providers the community engaged with and the providers of new solutions who sought to engage with the community.

As I engaged with the end users of water and sanitation services in the cities within the community of residential facilities, office buildings and education campuses, I began to hypothesise that widespread & rampant water illiteracy and water unaccountability as the root cause of the urban water crisis. Not to mention that the water infrastructure & governance system having actively contributed to the culture of water illiteracy and unaccountability.

In trying to address the root cause for urban water users I tested trialled and refined tools and frameworks that could facilitate water literacy and water accountability in city residents. As a result of my intense focus on getting the city residents to become water literate I began to view water security or lack of water availability (of right quantity and quality) for sustained period of time as the main problem. In other words, my framing of water crisis was all about availability of water as an end objective.

Post covid, as my urban assignments allowed me to work virtually, I took the opportunity to leave the convenience of living in the city to venture into the villages. So that I can engage with the rural community where close to 80 per cent of water resources in India gets consumed. I was keen to understand how the water scarcity manifests itself in the village life. So, I joined a rural NGO working with the tribal communities in Eastern Uttar Pradesh in North India.

During the six months of working with the NGO gave me a unique opportunity to have an intense and close engagement with rural India. Here, I saw how almost every well-intended program designed for the betterment of rural community - be it MNREGA, Sustainable Food or Nutritional Awareness programs to name a few were getting pushed back by the community and failing in delivering their intended outcomes because of lack of water.

This experience made me look at water in a very different way. I no longer saw water as an end objective. I just realized how water was actually an enabler and a critical success factor to every program that sets out with an outcome for social, environmental and /or economic well being. It dawned on me how water being an invisible enabler tends to be at the very best an after-thought or a factor that is assumed to be taken care of by someone out there. I also began to empathise with champions of those programs who put their heart and soul into designing these well intended programs.

For example the objective of Poshan Vaatika a nutritional program is to build capacity of the community for securing their nutritional health. This is done by training them on planting a kitchen garden. However, when providing the training , while the details of what to grow when to grow and how to sow were well taken care of, they simply did not remember to incorporate how to source the water which the farmers seriously lack. They did not remember because they do not have the capacity or capability for appreciating water to be a critical success factor of their program.

Another stark example I came face to face was that of a highly innovative and a unique one of its kind program called MNREGA that aims to achieve both natural resource management and employment outcomes within villages. The program involves identifying work through which natural and useful assets can be built for the benefit of the village community while providing gainful employment to the villagers who work on those projects. In the last 10 years, several crores of rupees have been spent in the villages which I toured. Despite spending years and crores, every one of the villages suffered from depletion of groundwater reserves and lack of soil moisture. Why? Simply because none of the staff of MNREGA and Village Block Development Office have the capacity or competence to strategize the right and effective watershed structures that need to be built. Due to this lack of capacity for watershed developmemnt, the MNREGA scheme has been reduced to being an employment program spectacularly failing at delivering natural resource management outcomes in the villages I toured.

It was becoming clear that water is an invisible enabler requiring appreciation by the champions of social, environmental and economic (SEE) outcomes for how critical water is to the success of their program objectives. Once the appreciation and acknowledgement happens, they also require a helping hand to put water in front of mind in how their program or plan is developed. This will require application of relevant water expertise to be weaved into their program with water as a critical success factor, not as an after-thought.

It is this realization that gave me the clarity and inspiration to give birth to (Jjala Ssmruti Foundaton) who will make it a mission to put water in front of mind of outcome champions. Thus, Jjala Ssmruti Foundation was born. Jjala Ssmruti means Memory for Water.

This wheel of water memory shows the type of collaborations & partnerships through which Jjala Ssmruti Foundation will aspire to help water to be remembered.  Least we don't procrastinate on water to tomorrow.

Please welcome this water baby whose fate will determine the fate of water in India. Hence please help me make this water baby grow healthy & strong so we can proudly sing the glory of India being Sujalaam Sufalaam (water abundant & verdant)