June 10, 2023

Former lieutenant governor of Puducherry, Kiran Bedi, recounts how her team turned the UT into a water-rich place by involving corporates in cleaning up its streams and ponds
Making Puducherry water-rich was a journey filled with moments of agony and ecstasy. Agony at seeing canals clogged with silt, the economically weak having to buy bottled water for cooking, women complaining of hair loss due to bad water, and running out of funds to desilt 23 feeder channels, 84 tanks and 609 ponds. And then, moments of ecstasy when we got our first donor and became able to bring in ample funds to completely desilt all our canals and ponds.
While I was LG of Puducherry, having an open administration helped us to not just hear the problems the people were facing but also get to their root and solve these problems. One such complaint in an open house was about water, and it was alarming to see how Puducherry was moving towards complete drought.
So, on World Water Day in March 2018 we resolved to make Puducherry water-rich and even coined the hashtag ‘WaterRichPuducherry’. Then began our weekend morning rounds towards this mission.
ineer, other public officials and members of Team Raj Nivas. We started visiting campuses of educational institutions and industries that were guzzling water, and found most of them lacked water harvesting facilities. We instructed them to immediately work on building rainwater harvesting structures.
Then started our visits to the various water channels. A visit to the Sitheri channel was an eye-opener. It was completely clogged with silt and thick grass, and needed an earth mover for cleaning up. We learnt that it would cost Rs 4-5 lakh to clean up the channel but PWD officials said they had no funds. We said we would get them Rs 6 lakh, and turned back with a resolve to raise funds.
On our way back we stopped by at the Inox gas factory, which was near the water channel, and asked them if they would adopt the channel and have it cleaned up as part of their CSR activity. They agreed.
Back in Raj Nivas I put out a tweet seeking support to clean up these water channels, promising to announce the names of the donors. Dr Mariazeena Johnson of Satyabhama University came in as our first donor. Our team led by comptroller Asha Gupta continued to work on bringing in CSR support and soon had enough funds for desilting and cleaning up all the water channels.
We made it very clear that the donor would pay the equipment operator directly. Raj Nivas was acting as a facilitator and helping connect donors to earth mover operators. We even allowed farmers to take away the silt for farming.
The channels and ponds soon started looking clean and became part of the functions and prayers the companies organised towards celebrating their efforts. We decided to give “Swachhata Hi Seva” awards to all the donors who had supported ‘Mission Water Rich Puducherry’.
After the rural water channels, we took up the cleaning of the urban canals to prevent flooding in the city. They were clogged with not only silt but also pillows, mattresses and pieces of wood. The people had become callous about them.
We followed the same CSR model and got all the canals cleaned up so that when the northeast monsoon hit that year the rural water channels were brimming with water, ready to be used for irrigation, and the urban canals were able to remove the storm water and avoid flooding. When I left Puducherry two years ago, the water table was up by 7 feet and the water channels were brimming with water.

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