Chattar Singh, 49

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Photo: Sopan Joshi

Water Harvester

In the heart of the Thar desert in western Rajasthan, life depends on planning for water. That’s what Chattar Singh excels at. The 49-year-old has worked for several social organisations, but his most durable work has been in the past eight years with an organisation called Sambhaav. In dozens of hamlets across about 100 km in Jaisalmer, he has revived old traditions of water harvesting. The region had a unique design of a narrow well called beri, which taps water trapped in the sand. This traditional design fell into disuse. “He has demonstrated that these wells can be revived, and now villagers are doing this on their own,” says Farhad Contractor, who heads Sambhaav. “It is thanks to his work that about 12 hamlets around the Biprasar tank will have water in beris even if it doesn’t rain for four years,” he says. How he has done that, though, is a story in itself. He revived village festivals called lhaas (from the Hindi ulhaas) to get people to celebrate and volunteer labour for community works. “This is unlike rural development programmes that turn people into paid labourers,” says Anupam Mishra of the environment cell of New Delhi-based Gandhi Peace Foundation.

‘Chattar Singh has demonstrated to villagers that beris can be revived’

Singh may be reached at +91 96721 40359

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