As the monsoon storms bear down on India, a dedicated group of women hope that after years of backbreaking labor, water shortages will no longer leave their village high and dry.
The world’s second-most populous country is struggling to meet the water needs of its 1.4 billion people — a problem worsening as climate change makes weather patterns more unpredictable. Few places have it tougher than Bundelkhand, a region south of the Taj Mahal, where scarce water supplies have pushed despairing farmers on the plains to give up their lands and take up precarious work in the cities.
“Our elders say that this stream used to run full throughout the year, but now there is not a single drop,” said Babita Rajput while walking past a bone-dry fissure in the earth near her village.
“There is a water crisis in our area,” she added. “All our wells have dried up.”
Three years ago, Rajput joined Jal Saheli (“Friends of Water”), a volunteer network of around 1,000 women working across Bundelkhand to rehabilitate and revive disappeared water sources. Together they carry rocks and mix concrete to build dams, ponds and embankments to catch the fruits of the June monsoon, a season which accounts for about 75 percent of India’s annual rainfall.
Agrotha, where Rajput lives, is one of more than 300 villages where women are chalking out plans for new catchment sites, reservoirs and waterway revitalizations. Rajput said their work had helped them retain monsoon rainwater for longer and revive half a dozen water bodies around their village.
Though not yet self-sufficient, Agrotha’s residents are no longer among the roughly 600 million Indians that a government think-tank says face acute water shortages daily. The women’s efforts provide a rare glimmer of hope as national shortages worsen.
Water utilities in the capital New Delhi fail to meet demand in summer, with trucks regularly traveling into slums to supply residents unable to draw water from their taps.
India’s NITI Aayog public policy centre forecasts that around 40 percent of the country’s population could be without access to drinking water by the end of the decade.
‘GOVERNMENT HAS FAILED’
Erratic rainfall patterns and extreme heat have been linked to climate change in Bundelkhand, which has suffered several long dry spells since a drought was declared at the turn of the century.
Civil society activist Sanjay Singh helped train women in Agrotha to harvest and store rainwater after the surrounding land was desiccated by drought.
By doing so he helped the village rediscover knowledge that was lost decades earlier, when water went from being a community-managed resource to one administered by India’s government.
“But government has failed to ensure water to every citizen, particularly in rural areas, pushing villagers to go back to the old practice,” he said.
Before Agrotha’s irrigation project began, women had to walk miles every day in a desperate and often fruitless search for a well that was not dry.
In India’s villages, fetching water is traditionally the responsibility of women, several of whom have faced violence from their husbands after being unable to find enough for their households, Singh said. He added that drought had brought big social changes to the region, pushing men to move to cities and leave their families behind. But since it was founded in 2005, the Jal Saheli initiative has helped more than 110 villages become self-reliant for their water needs and aided in reversing the outward flow of people.
DUST BOWL TO OASIS
In the nearby Lalitpur district, the elderly Srikumar has seen the initiative transform her community from a dust bowl into an oasis.
She heard about the volunteer group a decade ago after suffering through years of water shortages, by the end of which every well and hand pump in her village of 500 people had run dry. Most of the farms in the area had turned barren because of a lack of irrigation, and dehydrated cattle herds were dying in summer temperatures close to 50 degrees Celsius.
“Villagers suffered a lot during those days,” Srikumar said. “Farming was impossible and men were fleeing their homes to cities to earn a living.”
With the help of Singh’s charity, Srikumar and a dozen other volunteers dug a football field-sized reservoir near the village that holds up to three meters of water after the monsoon rains arrive.
The village now has enough water reserves to meet its needs year-round and replenish the earth that had dried out before their intervention.
“Things have changed for good. We have enough water now, not just for our homes but also for our cattle,” she said. “Our lives would have been miserable without this pond,” she added. “It would have been very difficult to survive.”
The July 16 rally in Taipei at which presidential candidates Hon Hai Precision Industry Co founder Terry Gou (郭台銘), former Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜) appeared, also featured Internet personality Holger Chen (陳之漢), a former gang member turned celebrity known for misogynistic commentary and performative hypermasculinity. Observers in attendance noted a disproportion of males in the audience and widespread support for Ko. TaiwanPlus News described the event thusly: “Tens of thousands, most of them young Taiwanese men, rallied in Taipei on Sunday calling for housing justice and judicial reform.” Why men? In recent years
What will become of the royal family? That is a question people have been asking since the regime change of last year. What sort of a state has that family got itself into? Can it survive in this form? The Queen Mother must be spinning in her grave, people think. The late Queen must have already been spinning as she was lowered into hers. All the moldering bones of their hundreds of dead relatives, clustered at Westminster and Windsor but also dotted all over the place — Gloucester, Worcester, Reading, various places in Normandy, that car park in Leicester —
If the world is to avert climate catastrophe without causing immense suffering, humanity must put the global economy into reverse gear, and begin serious and truly democratic discussions about resources and priorities, says Lu Chien-yi (盧倩儀), a research fellow at Academia Sinica’s Institute of European and American Studies (IEAS). Lu is a proponent of degrowth, a movement that seeks to knock GDP as the standard metric off its pedestal, save the planet’s ecosystems and create a more just society. She and other degrowth thinkers contend that the eco-economic decoupling promised by supporters of green growth will not happen fast enough to
In Taiwan’s English-speaking circles, quite a few people are familiar with the names Clarissa Wei (魏貝珊) and Ivy Chen (陳淑娥). California-born Wei has been writing about local food and other subjects for several years. Among expats and tourists, Chen is a go-to teacher of Taiwanese and Chinese cuisine. Both women live in Taipei, but as Wei explains early on in Made in Taiwan: Recipes and Stories from the Island Nation both have roots in the south of the island. Wei’s parents immigrated to the US from Tainan. Chen was brought up in a small town a short distance north of