Report of General Monthly Meeting

Wells for India
A talk given Om Prakash Sharma, assisted by Dr Max Wilson and Julia Sealby Guy Whitburn on 10th October 2017

Wells for India (recently renamed WaterWise) is a charity based in Winchester that has been successfully working with communities in India for thirty years. It develops small scale and locally-managed solutions to provide water in India, enabling communities to have access to water all the year round. Om Prakash Sharma has been involved with the charity since 1990 and has been the charity’s India Director for eighteen years. He has a team of five in India which oversees the management of projects which are implemented by local Indian partners. As a civil water engineer his wealth of knowledge regarding water harvesting in arid zones has steered the charity to become a leader in its field. Dr Max Wilson was the Chairman of the UK Board of Trustees for six years, and has paid several visits to the community projects in India.

We were very fortunate to be able to hear from Om Prakash Sharma as he visits the UK only for about ten days every year in October.

In the UK, we tend to take for granted access to clean water for domestic and other purposes. It is hard to imagine life without this. For millions of people living in India, however, before the water harvesting projects began, water collection for many involved a daily walk to 5 to 8 kilometres. The charity works mainly with communities in Rajasthan, a region roughly the size of the United Kingdom with a population of 69 m. Om Prakash Sharma stressed the importance and effectiveness of using traditional methods of saving and storing water, such as step wells. We also learned about different ways of capturing water during the rainy seasons such as self-catching water tanks which are typically lined with cement, ensuring that every drop of water goes into the tank. The type of method used for catching water depends on the geology and ecology of the area, and there is also a variety of means to slow down the flow of water from the hills to enable it all to be captured.

The benefits of having access to water for families are immense. Women and girls no longer have to walk each day to collect water for their families, freeing up time for their family or work – for example, in growing vegetables – and girls can go to school. Crop production is more efficient and reduces labour time. Often two crops a year are possible instead of one. Livestock milk production has increased in all the project villages. We learned that the Indian government tends to give financial support to the large scale water projects such as building dams and canals. It is the independent charities such as Wells for India who do such valuable work with the village communities and transform their lives in this way.