The Centre for Science and
Environment (CSE) in New Delhi, an influential Indian non-governmental organisation
led by Ms. Sunita Narain, a dynamic advocate for water, environment, human rights,
democracy and health, will receive the 2005
Stockholm Water Prize.
The award has been given to CSE for its efforts to build a new paradigm of
water management, which uses the traditional wisdom of rainwater harvesting
and advocates the role of communities in managing their local water systems.
In its citation, the Nominating Committee lauded CSE, under the leadership
of Ms. Narain, “For a successful recovery of old and generation of new knowledge
on water management, a community-based sustainable integrated resource management
under gender equity, a courageous stand against undemocratic, top-down bureaucratic
resource control, an efficient use of a free press, and an independent judiciary
to meet these goals.”
CSE will receive the $150,000 Prize from HM King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden
in August. The Stockholm Water Prize is awarded annually to individuals and
institutions for their outstanding contributions to the world of water. This
year’s prize to CSE acknowledges the growing crisis of water management in many
regions of the South and the need for new approaches that provide local food
and water security to communities.
CSE’s work, through its many publications, its research and advocacy has helped
create new thinking on how traditional systems of water management, which use
rainwater endowment, once rejuvenated could become the starting point for the
removal of rural poverty in many part of the world. It is clear that the management
of water, and not scarcity of water, is the problem in many parts of the world.
CSE’s work on rainwater harvesting has shown the many ingenious ways in which
people learnt to live with water scarcity. The solution practiced diversely
in different regions, lies in capturing rain in millions of storage systems
– in tanks, ponds, stepwells and even rooftops -- and to use it to recharge
groundwater reserves for irrigation and drinking water needs.
The world faces a critical challenge is improve the productivity of rainfed
and marginalised lands. In this challenge, water can turn a large part of the
country’s currently parched lands into productive lands, reduce poverty and
increase incomes where it is needed the most
. CSE has shown through its advocacy that localised water management is a cost-effective
approach and more importantly that local water management – harvesting and storing
water where it falls – can only be done through community participation. The
work of CSE has highlighted that water cannot become everybody’s business until
there are fundamental changes in the ways we do business with water. Policy
will have to recognise that water management, which involves communities and
households, has to become the biggest cooperative enterprise in the world. For
this, the organisation forcefully argues that the prevalent mindset that water
management is the exclusive responsibility of government must give way to a
paradigm built on participative and local management of this critical life source.
This powerful idea is gaining ground to become the policy and practice in many
regions of the world.
The 2005 Water Prize is given for CSE’s contribution to build a water-literate
society that values the raindrop and teaches society to learn from the frugality
of our ancestors, to build a water prudent world. The movement has the potential
to change the water futures of the world.