‘Modern Bhagiratha’ Who Brought Drinking Water to the villages of Rajasthan- Bhagwati Agarwal

Rajasthan is a dry state which is usually a desert area. Drought problems are very common and women have to travel miles and miles to fetch water. In the ancient times, Bhagiratha was a person, who made efforts to brought river Ganga to flow from Kailash Mountains of Himalayas to the plain lands of India.

Acc. to Indian mythology, Bhagiratha made the River Ganga flow from Kailash Mountains of Himalayas to the plain lands of India. In Today’s time, Rajasthan is considered a desert area. Women have to travel miles and miles to fetch the water.

Dr. Bhagwati Agarwal, through his unique project named Akasha-Ganga, became ‘Bhagiratha’ of today’s time. He brings drinking water to six villages in Rajasthan. Dr. Agarwal was born in the agricultural family in the village of Chhapoli in Rajasthan. His rainwater harvesting and supply mechanism has played a marvelous role in lives of villagers of Rajasthan, especially when the country is facing water problems.

Dr. Agarwal remembers high school days where he used to perform well in his academic’s and also secured a meritorious position. Because of his academic excellence at graduation level made him earned him a doctoral fellowship in engineering at the University of South Florida, which he completed in 1974. He had also worked with the tech. companies like ITT, General Dynamics and starting out in the lab; he made himself recognized in voice processing. He also launched his first two companies in 1988, but his second company went bankrupt.

The first inspiration for Bhagwati was his mother’s words. Once, an elderly woman requested him to help her draw water from well and he pretended as if he didn’t listen to her words. his mother literally told him that          “ Do you know the difference between an animal and a human being? Every animal fills his or her stomach but its human being who fulfills someone else need”.

The second inspiration or incidence, which made Bhagwati step forward for villagers in villagers.  When he visited his native place after returning from the USA. He witnessed a scene where the children and elders were excited to see a water tanker arriving at their place! Bhagwati questioned a lady—“Is water such a rare commodity here?” The lady replied wittingly “Why do you ask me? Can’t you count the number of bachelors in the crowd?” Bhagwati was puzzled by this answer; He quizzed her again to explain what she meant? The lady replied—“No girls” father or brother is ready to get their daughter or sister married to boys of this village reason being their entire life will have to be spent fetching water from the wells.”

The objective of Akasha Ganga is to distribute water to all the villagers. The project involves collecting rainwater from rooftop gutters and pipes in overhead tanks. The water is solely for the house owners. The other portion of the water is stored in a community reservoir and supplied to houses with thatched roofs as they cannot store water in their premises. The storage has the sufficient drinking water needs of 10,000 villagers in six villages of Rajasthan. Many social projects were also conducted to make people realize the importance of water in the village.

For this amazing Initiative, each village has donated a land of 2.5 acres to construct a reservoir that can hold 4, 00,000 liters of water. The system in total has a capacity to provide 10 liters of water a day to per person at the cost of Rs. 140 per person.

Dr. Agarwal has also won many: he has been awarded as CNN Hero for his efforts to provide drinking water to villagers. In 2011, the Indian Government has funded this project with Rs. $1, 50,000 whereas World Bank has also funded this project and recognized it as the social cause. In 2010, The Akasha Ganga project fetched leadership award to Dr. Agarwal from Lemelson-Massachusetts Institute of Technology for Sustainability