The water paladin who catches every drop of rain

Published: 25th September 2012 08:51 AM  |   Last Updated: 25th September 2012 08:51 AM   |  A+A-

Ayappa-M-Masagi

Probably, no other issue, other than water, so remorselessly exposes the fact that what we have, is far more enough than what we want.

Or probably that is, what Ayappa M Masagi is aggressively propagating. According to this mechanical engineer, there is enough water for everybody, if one realises its importance and one uses it judiciously.

His humble nature does not taper his excitement when he talks about his passion.

Water conservation: And his experiments have gained wide popularity across the globe, giving him such titles as the Water Gandhi and the Doctor of barren borewells.

Many deify him into a divine status. And, he has never tired from intromitting areas where water was a concern.

His cathect has paid off well because of its utilitarian nature. He has constructed 600 lakes, more than 100 water conservation systems, implemented his technology in more than 100 industries and has recharged more than 1000 barren borewells under his direct supervision.

 In 2005, he started the Water Literacy Foundation as a community programme with the intention of  converting people into water warriors.

While his focus has been in rural, urban areas and industries, his main concern is the shortage of funds for implementation of his technology in the rural areas and inosculate as many surrounding as possible with his initiatives.

“While my urban and industry focus gives me a small margin, the rural segment is my social responsibility. While NABARD, Swiss aid, Deshpande foundation etc have been supporting me, I started Rain Water Concepts India Limited in 2008 with the objective of water freedom for all as it is not a commodity but a resource.

Through this entity, I convince those who have the ability to give, so that I can give to those who don’t. For example, I constructed a huge lake for ACC Cement  and because of that not only did the company get benefitted, but also 18 farmers in the surrounding areas,” he says.

There are two kinds of water that he works on - Rain water and grey water (water from washing, bathing, etc). “In an average house, only 10 per cent water is used for drinking while the rest is wasted. If this grey water is channelised properly, it will remain in the earth and help enrich the soil.

For an independent house, rain water harvesting technology can be implemented at a cost of ` 10-15,000, which can harvest about 1 lakh litres of water. If the grey water technology has to be included, it will cost another `40,000,” he says. His success is evident from the fact that people and companies have so far put `179 crores on him.

At Lakshmipura in Chikmagalur, which faces severe water scarcity and drought during summers, he has built a lake using 28 infiltration wells. Two artificial lakes were also built in the surroundings. One collects run-off rain water from the hillsides and the other harvests rain water after filtration.

“While I spent only Rs 12 lakhs, Art of Living who collaborated with Lifeline Feeds India Pvt. Ltd had estimated a cost of Rs 50 lakh. I now want to replicate the same in 18 other villages,” says Masagi. 

His struggle and triumph: Masagi’s current knowledge and practical implementation of his experiments which has benefitted farmers as well as urban areas and several industries, did not come easy. His passion sprouted when he had to face water woes right at the age of six.

Veerapura in Gadag is never short of mirages during the summer and his village was never spared of acute shortage water. “My mother used to walk 3-4 kilometres at 3 in the morning to collect drinking water from a stream which would flow for some time only during the wee hours.

The suffering was enormous and I was only six. Since then I have been consciously and unconsciously trying to find solutions to the problem,” says Masagi.

With not much of education, he joined L&T Komatsu in 1981 as a workman earning `1,100.

Over the years, he continued his work and education and did his post graduation after his marriage. Gradually progressing in his career,  he kept the spark of social work glowing within him.

When in 1994, he got promoted to the management cadre, he slowly initiated his social concern too in small measures especially through water literacy campaigns, awareness creation and lectures to small gatherings. In 2001, he had a difficult choice to make because balancing his job and his social work was beginning to get tough.

He firmly went by his intuit and in 2002, quit his job from L&T to completely focus on his water mission. Having come within his bailiwick, Masagi knew that his mission was not an easy one. The awareness among people was quite low and the blame was always on less rain. While he had purchased six acres of land in his native town to demonstrate the success that can be achieved using his technology, he struck big in 2004 when he converted contaminated water in Ardeshanahalli near Doddaballapur to potable water. He used several methods in the area especially lake construction, lake-type borewell recharging, and non-irrigational agricultural pits. The result was that seven villages around the area were benefitted.

This success got him introduced to Ashoka Innovators for the Public, a nonprofit organisation based in Arlington, USA. They supported his work for three years paying him a `30,000 every month. Today, Masagi works in 11 states across the country. He has trained 97 interns from across the globe, has 400 water warriors and has conducted 2042 programmes on water awareness.

Till date, Masagi’s innovative technologies encompass methods for irrigation and rainwater harvesting like urban and rural rainwater harvesting, borewell and subsoil recharging,   stream-water and groundwater harvesting, non-irrigational agriculture and recycling of used water.  “I am not a contractor, but a facilitator. My mission is to ensure that whenever rain falls, every drop is caught and utilised.

Water should not be exposed to sunlight, it has to be kept within the earth. Earth is a big tank and water can be utilised through borewells. Today borewells have become one of the biggest curse, mainly because people have started installing them at a distance of 10 ft, while the law states that the distance between two borewells should be 800 metres. The practice of rampant borewells have ruined the water balance,” he says.

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