Changing Their Futures
Tuesday, December 01, 2009 | Author: eventer79
I just finished reading this article in last month's National Geographic. If you haven't figured it out yet, yes, I unashamedly love that magazine. In short, we are introduced to a program called the Watershed Organization Trust (WOTR), who works with villages in India to reclaim their land by reshaping their watersheds and capturing the rain on which their life depends.

India, like most of the world, including the US, has fallen victim to the fatal combination of changing climate patterns, development, and associated human over-exploitation of resources. Most villages rely on farming, which in turn, relies on water, in order to survive. However, as water is sucked up by development in cities and water tables are drained while less rain falls due to climate change, wells dry up, crops fail, land parches, and hope withers and blows away on the dusty wind.

From the article: "Our lives are wrapped up in the rain," explained a woman named Anusayabai Pawar... "When it comes, we have everything. When it doesn't, we have nothing."

WOTR works with villages, getting everyone invested by requiring that all parties, including women, lower caste members, and children contribute to the work of planting vegetation, digging ditches, capturing runoff, everything that slows down the monsoon rainwater and allows it to soak into the soil, replenshing wells and reviving both the land and the people's futures.

If you are thinking, "Oh, this is India, they just have lots of poor hungry people, and deserts, I am just fine in my snug suburban home in my western nation," think again. We are not unspeakably far from a similar predicament in the US. Our water tables are dropping steadily as it is impossible for rainfall to replace the massive quantities we suck out for ridiculous things like golf greens and car washes. Wells must be drilled deeper and even then, they are frequently in danger of contamination or drying up in droughts, which we are beginning to see more of. Full on legal wars broke out all over the country during our most recent dry-up in 2007 pitting state against state in a battle over a scarce resource.

We don't do a good job of using water wisely, as I discussed here. We don't do a good job of keeping the water we drink clean (here and here). But that doesn't mean we can't change. That doesn't mean we can't take a hint from WOTR and from some hardworking villagers in India who have discovered that not only does taking care of your watershed benefit you directly by ensuring that you have water to use, it builds your community via people working together, talking to each other, and enterprising new solutions for a better, brighter future.
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