It has taken Chennai’s water crisis for the country to notice we are in the midst of an ecological catastrophe. It’s important, then, for citizens to be aware of water conservation systems, old and new, and understand how to harvest and use water sensibly.
Enter JAL, India’s first water museum, in Chowkaria, a Rajasthani village 12km from Udaipur. Expected to launch later this year, it is being set up by Sushmita Singha, president, MA: My Anchor Foundation, an NGO working in the development sector. “Once I started working at the grass-root level, I realized that sitting and making policies is one thing, but the problems are so enormous one has to do much more than that,” she says. Spread over 23,000 sq. ft, the museum will explore the relationship between water and technology as well as crafts, and water conservation.
Singha says Chowkaria’s proximity to Udaipur, as well as the awareness about Rajasthan’s water crisis, make it the ideal spot for a museum. But the models of conservation systems will go beyond the local. Aside from a stepwell and tankas (small tanks modified with handpumps), there will be functioning models of the North-East’s bamboo water conservation system.
She is particularly excited about the crafts section. “We don’t usually associate water and crafts but most things we do in crafts need water—like block printing, dyeing, pottery, even metal-work,” she says.
The learning centre will perhaps be the museum’s most engaging section. Here, experts will teach students, farmers and agriculturists about water auditing, harvesting and conserving. “Today, if I have to look for a person who can do rainwater harvesting, it’s so difficult—there are very few people available and therefore it is very expensive,” says Singha. “So if we train young girls and boys or men and women to do this, it can spread from village to village.”
With an amphitheatre for storytelling and music sessions focusing on water, an area for children with mini-wells and interactive turbines, the museum promises to be a living space, not a static display.