Getting people together for water conservation a challenge: Aamir Khan

Mumbai: Actor Aamir Khan has said that gathering people from villages to improve the water situation in Maharashtra was a huge challeng...

Mumbai: Actor Aamir Khan has said that gathering people from villages to improve the water situation in Maharashtra was a huge challenge.

Aamir's Paani Foundation aims to impart knowledge and bring about a change at the grassroots level in Maharashtra about water conservation and watershed management.

"The biggest challenge is - people coming together. For example, water can only be stored in a pot which has no holes in it. Until human beings in a community, in the village, come together close (nothing can happen).

"If there are cracks in the society, the water will seep through. You have to remove all the cracks and then come together and then you will grab water," Aamir said in an interview here.

The 53-year-old actor added that the "biggest task is getting people together for this cause because society is fractured on many levels".

"... Politically, there are five parties in each village, we have different castes in villages, you have land owners... Some do not have land, some people have land close to the stream, some people have land away from the stream. We had to convince people that watershed management is actually going to help all of us.

"But certainly it's a challenge that has been overcome by the villagers themselves. We are just training them. That is the beauty of this idea. That the village does things on its own to solve the problem," he added.

At Paani Foundation, which was founded by Aamir in 2016, the team empowers villagers and gives them a sustainable solution for water conservation which is expected to help them for years.

"All the work will be done by the village. They will decide what is the area of their land, how many watersheds fall into it, what is the kind of work they need to do.

"So they make the plan and execute it. We just teach them how to do it. It is a demand-driven exercise. We don't choose villages, villages choose us."

When asked whether this initiative would help prevent farmer suicides, Aamir said it would a contributing factor.

"Certainly, it will contribute to that. Water is not the only reason for farmers' suicides," he said.

Aamir appealed to students and people living in the state's urban areas to join the initiative, by becoming "jalmitras" (water's true friends) on May 1, which happens to be Maharashtra Day.

People from cities can register on the website of Paani Foundation to work in villages, alongside local residents.

The last date for registration is midnight of April 25.

So far, over one lakh people have signed up and Aamir hoped more people from cities pitched in.

The actor revealed that while women were at the forefront of this cause, men often made excuses.

"Last year, when we went to a village, the women were doing 'shramdhaan' (donating efforts) every day working really hard and the men were lazing around and giving excuses.

"So the women decided that they won't go home. After work, they all told their husbands they are not coming home if they (men) don't come for shramdhaan," he said.

The "Dangal" actor has been getting strong support from the state since water conservation and drought elimination is one of the key projects of the Maharashtra government led by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.

"The government has a scheme, Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyaan, which does the same thing. They take 5,000 villages every year and help the villagers by funding some of the activities. We don't take money from the government but we do seek their help in other ways," he said.

"Like we are using Maharashtra State Road Transport buses. It is a big logistical effort but we do give a lump sum of Rs 50 lakh for this. So the CM facilitated that for us. They are helping us a lot. They are being extremely supportive," the actor added.

Talking about the reports in papers that he wanted to make Maharashtra drought-free in five years, Aamir said, "That's a claim that has come out in the papers. But I never said that. People asked us what is your hope and I said my hope is that in five years we should not be relevant anymore.

-Source: News Agency




Local Glob: Getting people together for water conservation a challenge: Aamir Khan
Getting people together for water conservation a challenge: Aamir Khan
Local Glob
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