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How We Can Make Efforts Towards Solving India’s Water Crisis

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In some parts of India, there is a severe water crisis. According to the BBC, an estimated 600 million people are without safe water and 2,00,000 die each year because of it. Causes of the problem include poor irrigation techniques, climate change, and pollution. In a country that is quickly developing in some ways and struggling in others, water should be a top priority and a recognized human right. The country cannot fully develop its people or infrastructure without a good water supply. There are no easy answers for how to deal with the crises in such a large and diverse country, but there are many things that can be done.

Government Initiatives
The Indian government has started different projects and has already implemented various strategies to help with the crisis. For example, in 2014, the government signed a $500 million agreement with the World Bank to bring water to rural communities in Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, and Uttar Pradesh. The government has had bank deals before and continues to learn from these projects in an effort to improve the complicated situation. Other government efforts include banning the burning of leaves and waste, cleaner production processes, creating better laws and policies, and trying to improve sewage systems (it doesn’t help matters that millions of people practice open defecation and the  waste finds its way into open water sources). Others have suggested that the government look to countries with effective water systems, such as Israel and Singapore, for solutions.

It seems that many of these measures have made real differences but there are still problems. One is that policies are not always properly enforced. For instance, people continue to dump in rivers with no proper enforcement to stop them.

Polluted Rivers

Polluted water sources like rivers are a major factor in the water crisis. The Bellandur lake is so polluted that it regularly catches fire.

The sacred Yamuna river may be fatally toxic with fecal matter and industrial waste, but for poor families who live along its banks, life marches on. Children hunt for coins in the black water, people cook with it, bathe in it, and even work in it. They are either unaware of the health risk or they have no choice. The river needs to be cleaned, but in the meantime, people must stop using it, which would be very difficult considering its sacred nature to millions of Indians. The needs and lifestyles of people who still use the river despite the dangers must also be considered by policymakers. Some of the poor people along the river will need alternative sources of work and water to use in cooking, drinking, and cleaning.

Every Community Is Different

It is important to realize that not every solution will work for every community. A 2014 survey showed that people in slums did not even want access to clean water. This may seem shocking, but the survey revealed important lessons as to why this may be the case. People who live in precarious situations like illegal slums could be in danger of losing homes and work if they draw attention to themselves with protests or other legal actions. Additionally, they did believe they could afford water anyway. In these cases, other basic needs like stable housing and education about the importance of clean water may need to be met before people can access clean water.

In other areas, wells might be critically important for many small villages that need water, but they might not always be the first priority. (Check out The Water Project to learn how you can help bring water to India with wells.) Local wells are sometimes depleted by farmers who have no rivers to water their crop so they are forced to use groundwater, which lowers the water table. In Rajasthan, a Mumbai “Water Mother” has found a beautiful solution to this by looking to the solutions of India’s past. She worked cooperatively with villages to create check dams that catch rainwater during the powerful monsoon season. (This is something the government has done as well). This solution has transformed every part of life so much that it has even increased the number of girls going to schools because their mothers no longer have to walk long distances to fetch water.

There are other ways to utilize rainwater that could be used in other areas, including cities, wherever possible. However, these dams would not work everywhere because of differences in climate, geography, or other concerns. A unique solution must be found in every area.

Individual Lifestyle Changes

There may be things that people can do on a daily basis to help. These include using urinals that don’t flush, fixing leaks, and managing water use better at home. For example, people should always turn off faucets while brushing their teeth and take short showers. If you are really conscious about using less water, you could use even less water in the shower by quickly getting wet, turning the water off while washing, and then turning it back on for a quick rinse at the end. If you turn the water on to wait for hot water, don’t waste it by letting it run down the drain! Catch it in a bucket to be used for other things like washing the dishes. It’s also better to wash the dishes by filling the sink or a bucket with water rather than to use running water. You can heat stored water for dishes on the stove to help kill germs and that way you don’t have to wait for the water to heat.

For many people in India, stored water is a luxury that they can’t afford. If you can afford it, consider some kind of water storage tanks. If you want to make a bigger impact, you could organize people in your area to store water and send the surplus to people who need it more than you. Or get involved with one of the many organizations who is trying to help.  

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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