The legendary work of Anupam Mishra helps regain the lost confidence. He was instrumental in restoration of over 25,000 traditional water bodies across India
Anupam Mishra left for his heavenly abode on December 19 leaving behind his legendary work on water conservation and environment protection based on traditional Bharatiya wisdom, the time tested knowledge that many of us today tend to discard by terming as outdated. His landmark works Aaj Bhi Khare Hain Talab (Ponds are Still as Good as Gold, 1993) and Rajasthan ki Rajat Boondein (Radiant Raindrops of Rajasthan, 1995), are regarded as Gita not only for water conservation and traditional rainwater harvesting techniques, but for complete environment protection that includes trees, customs, culture, habits, traditions, etc. These books help regain our lost confidence and proved instrumental in restoration of over 25,000 small and big traditional rainwater harvesting bodies in recent times.
I know Anupamji since 1996 when I first met him at Gandhi Peace Foundation. The last time I had long discussion with him was on January 16, 2016 during the International World Book Fair, New Delhi. However, brief meetings took place many times later too at GPF and Rajghat. Every moment of his life was inspiration. His simplicity was unparallel. He can be credited for starting serious discussion on environment protection in modern India. Much before the Government of India created separate Environment Ministry he set up an environment protection cell at GPF. His simple description of the global water crisis and equally simple methods as solution fascinated all. The traditional techniques that he suggested as remedy did not require any expenditure. He was candid to admit that he did not invent any new technique, he merely rediscovered them. In Aaj Bhi Khare Hain Talaab, which has been translated into 19 languages including French, Anupamji has documented the life and work of some individuals and communities in setting up water harvesting and management systems through lakes or ponds. Their work serves as a guide, in organising to face and tackle the current water crisis. On his inspiration many voluntary organisations have taken up the work of reviving traditional water harvesting systems. Over a lakh copies of Aaj Bhi Khare Hain Talab have been sold, but Anupamji never sought any royalty or copyright over it.
Anupamji reminds how ponds, lakes, wells, chaal, khaal or other traditional water bodies were created and preserved by our ancestros through a healthy and simple mechanism. This work used to be done with perfection by local ‘experts’ who might not have any engineering degrees, but were perfect in their respective tasks. Anupamji provides detailed description of the communities who traditionally did that work. ‘Gajadhars’ were expert in preparing architecture of the water bodies and also maintaining them generation after generation. Similar were the ‘Silawatas’ and ‘Sirbhavs’, whom Anupamji has described as ‘Siddha’ for their wonderful skills. ‘Sirbhavs’ could predict the ground water availability without any tool. Similarly, ‘Jalsoonghas’ were expert in discovering underground water by merely smelling it.
During his countrywide tour, especially to Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh, Anupamji discovered over two lakh tanks dug across India before the British rule. “My travels made me aware that our forefathers were far more aware and educated than we are. Just imagine, the enormous water tank of Jaigarh Fort in Jaipur can contain several hundred million litres of water! Look at Gadasisar in the heart of Jaisalmer desert or the three-century old Toda Rai Singh Tank. Now, students from IITs are studying the engineering of these old water tanks and ponds,” Anupamji said.
Remembering the tireless efforts of Anupamji, noted environmentalist Dr Vandana Shiva in the forward of his book The Radiant Raindrops of Rajasthan writes: “…Anupam Mishra has created a silent but permanent
revolution. He has changed the
dominant paradigm of water and shown that water security and insecurity is a product of nature plus culture, not just a given of nature. There can be water scarcity in high rainfall region and adequate water in low rainfall regions like the Rajasthan desert. Anupam’s work on the indigenous water systems of Rajasthan is a work of poetry as well as a work of science.”
The best tribute to the great water warrior will be to continue his work, if we have to really avoid the wars
to be fought on water and ensure healthy environment to our future generations.