Earlier this month, the NGO Tarun Bharat Sangh (TBS) held a Chintan Shivir (‘debating workshop’) at its ashram (headquarters) in Bheekampura, a village in the Alwar District of the arid/semi-arid Indian state of Rajasthan.
Regular readers of IWSN blogposts will be familiar with the work of TBS in the regeneration of linked socio-ecological systems by promoting restoration and innovation of new water-harvesting and water-conserving measures, and associated social and governance infrastructure, working with villages in this part of Rajasthan (see: Community-based regeneration in semi-arid north Rajasthan, India, Cultural co-benefits of community-based regeneration in north Rajasthan and Resilience in the face of India’s recurring droughts). They will also be familiar with the TBS founder, Rajendra Singh, influential on the global water stage and Laureate of the Stockholm Water Prize 2015.
Rajendra Singh and the TBS team had initiated the Chintan Shivir, and invited water professionals and activists from all over India. The event was well attended by around 200 people from many Indian states: from Uttar Pradesh to the north, Tami Nadu in the South and Maharashtra in the west. Attendees included all castes, and both men and women. Themes for discussion included farming, youth engagement, and many more. The working language of the event was Hindi, though some contributions were in English with translation to Hindi (particularly those from Tamil Nadu where the state language is Tamil).
I was invited to give keynote talks on both of the days I could attend (7-8 April). I spoke on topics including global water and resource use footprints and the consequent need for a Regenerative landscapes approach – working in synergy with and enhancing the capacities of natural systems to sustain human needs rather than today’s narrower technically efficient, exploitation-based paradigm – of which the work of TBS is a global exemplar. My presentations were in English with translation to Hindi. Publication of the UN World Water Development Report 2018 a little over a fortnight prior to the Chintan Shivir was fortuitous, as the report cited my 2015 paper on the success factors behind TBS initiatives.
I cannot comment on final outcomes of the Chintan Shivir as I had meetings with the Government of Rajasthan later on the second day, but networking and sharing were key objectives of the event. For me, this included many new links with people addressing water-related challenges across India, and meeting with old acquaintances such as Mr Rudmal Meena, headman of Harmeerpur village, who is a long-term champion who lives this nature-centred approach and also something of a ‘water guru’ for me. I was interviewed for two television and two radio stations, as well as by several journalists who will also convey key messages.