Today communities around the world celebrate Earth Day 2021. On this 51st year of the celebration the theme “Restoring Our Earth”, urges us to find ways that we can not only protect our planet’s resources, but replenish and restore ecosystems.
Our clean water supply in Indiana is plentiful; most days we don’t think twice about it. Yet we should always be mindful of our actions – from our neighbor that we may be impacting and to live in solidarity with the many villages globally who must work daily to obtain clean water for drinking and other basic human needs. This story of hope from Antwada, India inspires us to continue working together as a community to protect our drinking water.
Antwada – an Earthday.org Star Village
At the origin of the Kali River in India lives the village of Antwada. Sitting at a higher elevation than its neighboring villages, water from the town’s ground aquifers flows into a stream and joins other aquifers to take the shape of the Kali River, eventually merging with the Holy River Ganga 600km away. Some 1,200 villages are situation on the banks of the Kali and depend on its water for agricultural, economic, and domestic use.
Over the past 20 years these once clear waters have become a dumping ground for contaminants – from industries such as sugar processing, paper mills, and dairies to raw sewage and dead animals. Not only has the river itself become contaminated, but the pollution has affected the surrounding groundwater to the point of carrying waterborne virus and bacteria to its residents.
In the last 5 years, as villagers along the river became informed about the effects of the polluted river, communities banded together in numerous ways to clean and protect the Kali waters. The villagers of Antwada formed Nadi Raksha Samities (River Protection Committees) which evolved into a Kali River Parliament. The regional planning department has prepared a funded plan to make the Kali river pollution free. Numerous international organizations, students, and various civil society organizations are involved in the campaign.
The community’s efforts do not end at working with local officials. Education campaigns encourage the villagers to not drink the polluted water from hand-pumps or irrigate their fields with the river water. In 2019, the villagers of Antwada began digging at a large scale and cleaning the river themselves with voluntary labor and sacrificing some of their agricultural land to add in the revival of the river. All along the river now, action plans are being made to clean the Kali village by village.
Last on February 2, World Wetland Day, Earthday.org awarded the “Star Village” certificate to Antwada village as a sustainable community-managed model for river revival.
As we reflect on the dedication of these countless individuals, facing what seemed like an insurmountable challenge, we are inspired to do our own part to protect the waters of our community for now and for future generations.