Indian NGO wins top World Water Prize

The Centre for Science and Environment, an Indian non-governmental organisation, has been awarded the 2005 Stockholm Water Prize.

The US$150,000 prize was awarded to the director of the CSE, Ms Sunita Narain for the groups efforts to provide effective water management systems including fighting powerful bureaucratic resource control, empowering women in water collection, and rejuvenating traditional rainwater harvesting.

Receiving the award from HM King Carl Gustaf of Sweden as part of the World Water Week conference in Sweden, Ms Narain said: “I accept this award on behalf of thousands of water engineers and water managers all over the world, especially in Asia, Africa and Latin America. These people are discounted in the formal knowledge system of the world.”

She added that it is the management of water, not scarcity of water, that is the problem in many parts of the world. CSE’s work on rainwater harvesting has shown many ingenious ways that water resources can be managed and water scarcity overcome.

The solution lies in capturing rain in millions of storage systems – tanks, ponds, stepwells, and even rooftops – and using it to recharge groundwater reserves for irrigation and drinking water needs.

CSE believes that water management should become the world’s biggest cooperative enterprise in the world, involving communities and households, rather than the exclusive responsibility of government.

“Water will define if we remain poor or become rich,” Ms Narain said.

Two students from South Africa won the Stockholm Junior Water Prize. Pontso Moletsane, Motobele Motshodi and Sechaba Ramabenyane from Setjhaba Se Maketsee Combined School , received the Prize from hands of HRH Crown Princess Victoria on behalf of the Stockholm Water Foundation.

It was the second time that South Africa has won the prize in the past three years. The South African team proposed a revolutionary solution to minimise the need for water in small-scale irrigation. They developed a low-current electric soil humidity sensor which uses light detection to control water pipe valves and improve irrigation efficiency. By automating irrigation so that it occurs mainly at night, less water is lost to evaporation.

The nominating committee said: “Their invention, called the ‘Nocturnal Hydro Minimiser,’ is technically simple and inexpensive to produce. It enables communities to use the limited water resource more efficiently, to improve food production and to contribute to eradication of poverty.”

Three other countries were awarded “Diplomas of Excellence” for their water conservation projects.

David Hopkins

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