Community involvement is key to tackle water problems, say experts

Community involvement is key to tackle water problems, say experts


Two-day multidisciplinary event on the theme of water organised by DakshinaChitra Museum

Two-day multidisciplinary event on the theme of water organised by DakshinaChitra Museum

The need to involve the voices of local communities in wetland conservation and other water-related issues was stressed by experts at the two-day multidisciplinary event Thaneer!Thaneer!, organised by DakshinaChitra Museum.

The two-day event that ended on Saturday included talks, exhibitions, and screening of documentary films and saw enthusiastic participation, particularly from the student community.

Jayashree Vencatesan, trustee, Care Earth Trust, expressed concern over how elitism had crept into projects to conserve wetlands and other waterbodies. She said things like building of parks, walking tracks and amphitheatres had taken centre stage in conservation project instead of the importance that ought to be given for local communities and flora and fauna.

Nityanand Jayaraman, founder, Vettiver Collective, said high-sounding “engineering” solutions proposed for water-related problems often ended up transferring the problems to marginalised and underprivileged communities living elsewhere. He raised doubts over the efficacy of ongoing construction of stormwater drain networks in tackling flooding in the city.

Sara Ahmed, founder, Living Waters Museum, Ahmedabad, highlighted the importance of equitable access to water since surplus availability of water in a region did not always mean that everyone, particularly the marginalised communities, had adequate access. She expressed interest in documenting water heritage in Tamil Nadu for the virtual Living Waters Museum.

Mani Maaran, head pundit, Saraswathi Mahal Library, spoke on water management during the rule of the Chola Dynasty. He said elaborate mechanisms were in place to ensure access to water to even those staying at the tail-end areas of irrigation networks.

R. Srinivasan, Member, State Planning Commission, Tamil Nadu, who inaugurated the event on Friday, highlighted the need for caution over adopting a top-down approach in finding solutions. Instead, he said the knowledge of the local communities should be utilised. S. Janakarajan, president of the South Asia Consortium for Interdisciplinary Water Resources Studies, and Prabir Banerjee, President, PondyCan, also spoke on Friday.

Anitha Pottamkulam, director – culture, DakshinaChitra Museum, said the event was consciously designed as a multidisciplinary event to look at water from different perspectives. She said the learnings from the event would go into the creation of educational material for visiting school children.

The event included an exhibition of paintings, videos and photos by Parvathi Nayar, Aparajithan Adimoolam, and G.S. Bhavani. Five documentary films – Coral Woman, Moving Upstream: Ganga, My name is Palaaru, 1,000 days and a dream, and Dammed – curated by R.P. Amudhan were screened.