Inspirations: Gopal Singh

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Designer of Check Dams

With the design of about 4,000 successful check dams — and seven revived rivers — on his CV, Gopal Singh’s engineering ability beggars certification. His education began after his schooling ended with 10th grade. “In villages, people learn by practice. They have to measure (the slope and height of the land) without using tools,” he says. His moment of truth came in 1998 in Rashtrapati Bhavan, where he had gone with a team of water harvesters invited by the then President KR Narayanan. After he proposed a tank near the Mughal Gardens, CPWD engineers shot it down, saying there wasn’t a slope. Two-and-a-half feet, he said, measuring with his eyes. “I know Gopal gets these things right. So I told the engineers to check it with their equipment,” recalls waterman Rajendra Singh, Gopal’s colleague at the Tarun Bharat Sangh in Alwar, Rajasthan. “It was just as Gopal had estimated.” For each design, he sits alongside villagers. “They know their land better.” And why do cities get inundated? “The engineers are too much in a hurry to spare a thought for the entry and exit of water.”

Photo: Vijay Pandey

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