On December 5th, two of FSD’s community partners in India were presented with state-level Dalmia Awards, which honor work in water conservation and the environment. Rajasthani Governor Margaret Alva presented the awards to Kanupriya Harish of Jal Bhagirathi Foundation (JBF) and Kuldeep Kothari of the “Arna-Jharna” museum, operated by Rupayan Sansthan. Ms. Alva commended their use of community initiatives in the conservation of water and the environment, emphasizing the importance of community-based action as a supplement to government assistance. This prestigious honor awards a first prize of Rs. 1,00,000 in cash and eight consolation prizes of Rs. 11,000.
FSD partner Jal Bhagirathi Foundation was honored with the top prize in recognition of its scientific methods for water supply and its campaign highlighting the local issue of pasture land, check-dams and boundaries of agricultural fields. Since 2002, JBF has worked to implement community-based approaches to water management that improve the access of local communities while increasing participation and representation of women and disadvantaged groups. Ms. Alva echoed these goals at the awards ceremony, calling for an end to the traditional practice of women traveling long distances to retrieve water and advocating the supply of water through taps in each house.
We are equally proud to announce that Rupayan Sansthan was awarded a consolation prize for their work on the conservation and discovery of the oral history of Rajasthan through the ‘Arna-Jharna’ museum. Since their establishment in 1960, Rupayan Sansthan has researched and archived folk tales and folk songs to promote the richness of the Rajasthani language and indigenous knowledge. The museum not only showcases their collection but, in the words of Kuldeep Kothari, “celebrates the traditional knowledge systems of the desert linking everyday cultural practices to larger ecological concerns which reflect through its unique design and architecture done by local people.” The facility itself collects rainwater in a stone quarry-turned-reservoir, supporting ethno-medicinal plants and staple crops that now cover the surrounding mountains. The museum space has been covered with greenery and is a habitat for birds and animals in a celebration of desert life.
The extraordinary efforts of these two partner organizations truly embody Governor Alva’s message at the awards ceremony. She emphasized the need for a collective effort by government agencies, civil society and voluntary groups to ensure availability of drinking water for the next generation. While she urged government employees to take interest in public welfare, tree plantation, the construction of toilets and agricultural techniques, she called upon the villagers to not depend solely on the government for water supply and take up community-based solutions to these problems.