Dr. Agrawal travelled to the Aakash Ganga project villages and gained first-hand experience of the various facts of water scarcity in the villages of Rajasthan. Daily, women dressed in bright colors do dishes with sand or ash to conserve “sweet water” ── rainwater is called “sweet water.” The groundwater is saline and not drinkable. In Sardarpura, he asked local women how scarce was water? Quick came the response from an elderly lady wrapped in yellow and red saree: Why ask us, just count the number of bachelors in the village. Meaning, no father or brother wants to marry his daughter or sister in Sardarpura only to spend half a day fetching water for her family, every single day. In Lasedi, another Aakash Ganga site, people keep rainwater padlocked. They offer rainwater or “sweet water” to visiting guests as a mark of honor. In another village, women await arrival of water tanker to fill up their clay pots. The pots they take home will last for several days till the next arrival of the tanker.
Our approach to providing potable water, to communities with poor access to clean water, is through innovative rainwater harvesting. Every homeowner in the community with a roof is asked to lease the rights to harvest their rooftop rainwater. Roof rent is paid as one-time subsidy to build a rainwater reservoir at the home owner's quadrangle. In exchange, the home owner contributes part of the rainwater to the shared reservoir for the community's use. This large community reservoir provides drinking water to those who lives in houses with thatched rooftops that cannot be used for harvesting. In addition, a portion of the water in the village reservoir is used for horticulture to generate enough revenue to cover operational costs and then to pay a return to social investors.
Rainwater is water in its purest form available in nature. Aakash Ganga helps communities collect and conserve this water in safe reservoirs to maintain its purity and make it available the year round for drinking and personal use.
Aakash Ganga's "social audit" approach affords the villagers the same access privileges to project records as enjoyed by the corporate auditors. Such transparency wins the trust of the people. The example of the project becomes a potent tool that can empower the villagers to challenge and eliminate corruption around them.
An IT network monitors water quality, utilization, treatment, and repairs. Using a package-delivery type off tracking process, water samples and repair requests representing several million reservoirs can be managed from a single dashboard.