The Stories Of Change

Solving Water Woes By Combining Traditional Knowledge and Unique Innovations

Ayyappa Masagi was just three years old when he first witnessed the water scarcity in his village. He would accompany his mother and dig several pits to fetch water every day. This hardship inspired him to solve the country’s water crisis. Today. he is known as the “Water Magician” and has developed several successful innovations to solve the water woes.

With a vision of a water efficient world, our very own water doctor, in Bangalore, is on a mission to solve the water crisis of the world. He works 18 hours a day, traveling at least 70 kilometers everyday for a passion that’s been aflame in his heart since he was three.

Ayyappa Masagi believes that the water crisis, today, is not due to water scarcity but, due to the ignorance of the people of the society.

Ayyappa Masagi is also called the Water Magician.

“Mismanagement of our water resources has brought us to this state of water crisis, against which we have waged many battles, but seldom won,” he said.

After working for Larsen & Toubro (L&T) for 23 years, Mr. Masagi decided to quit his job in 2002 and follow his dream of water conservation by bringing forth new innovations and techniques.

Mr. Masagi, through his organisation, the Water Literacy Foundation (WLF), has organised more than 5,000 programmes on water awareness, that include, campaigns, workshops, rallies, and demo projects.

With his for-profit company, Rain Water Concepts (I) Pvt. Ltd., He has implemented projects in over 8,000 locations including industries, agriculture, rural, and urban sectors.

Mr. Masagi teaching farmers the importance of water conservation

Some of his indigenous systems and techniques to enhance water are:

  • Patta Bunding:

Scanty and unexpected rains such as those that frequently happen in monsoons often don’t moisten the soil enough. To retain the moisture in the soil, the land is split into a number of compartments, around which burrows are dug, turning the whole land into an earthen tank. This implementation enables the soil to retain moisture even from the scantiest rains, inherently enriching the soil.

  • Trench and Pit System:

This system uses alternating row of pits and trenches to obstruct the runoff in large volumes and charge the subsoil and eventually the ground water table. The pits are dug out in suitable sizes varying with the slope and materials available to fill the pits.

  • Earthen Dam:

Earthen dams are water management constructions. They are built against streams to aggregate the surface runoff, but can be complimented with lakes, too. They are built out of excavated soil with a supporting wall on the load bearing end. Earthen dams encourage the replenishment of groundwater in direct and indirect fashion.

  • Tree Based Agriculture:

Tree based agriculture can be practiced in arid or semi- arid areas and require very less investment and maintenance. This method focuses on planting trees at definite intervals, with 125 pits dug out per hectare to increase the water infiltration capacity that in turn increases the soil moisture, aiding in quick and healthy growth of the trees.

  • Grey-water Harvesting:

Grey-water is an important, possible, source of water for water harvesting. Thereby it is important to differentiate between grey-water and sewage. Grey- water only contains small amounts of soap, fats and organic matter. Grey-water is around 90% of the water we flush out as sewage. If it can be separated and filtered, it can then be injected into an soak pit or an infiltration well, from where it percolates into the ground.

  • Online Filter:

Rainwater is collected on roofs and flows through rainwater pipes to the Online filter, where the suspended particles are removed. the filtered water is then collected in a sump and can be used by the household.

The early beginnings

As a child, Masagi had faced a lot of water problems himself. That is why he hopes for a world, where issues like these won’t come up.

“Every morning, my mother and I, used to walk for kilometers to fetch water. We used to dig the ground on the banks of a stream and collect water by going into the pit. It was very dangerous, but there was no other way. that is when, at the age of three, I decided I will work towards water conservation and harvesting,” Masagi said.

It was while working in L&T that Masagi decided to take up his water conservation work full time. He first bought a land in Gadag in Karnataka, where he started implementing his innovative ideas.

“I planted a few seeds on my three-acre land to start with my experiments. It was a completely barren area. Now, after so many years and new agricultural methods, it is flourishing with trees and has become a natural mini forest,” he said.

After seeing the results of Masagi’s water harvesting techniques on his land, the neighboring farmers too took up his ideas. Slowly, his ideas and techniques reached people from different regions and created a ripple effect.

Masagi is a recipient of many awards like Karnataka Rajyotsava Award, Jamnalal Bajaj National Award for application of Science and Technology in Rural Development, and many more.

He is also a Limca Book record holder for the highest number of lakes constructed and highest number of borewells recharged in India.

Ayyappa firmly believes: “India doesn’t need any big projects to concur its water crisis. The people just need to be educated about the different ways of water conservation and also why water conservation is important in the first place”.

Ayyappa has written a book named Bhageeratha- A war on water crisis. The book explains his journey as well as gives a glimpse of his innovations. He now plans to produce a movie on the same to give the audience a little more perspective about his work.

“I always say, give me two years and the liberty to handle all the water related issues in the country. I can guarantee, the water and food crisis of India will be gone. It is not because of me but, because of my innovative techniques, inspired from the age old ones, that will prove to be fruitful,” he said.

Ayyappa is now looking forward to educate more individuals, whom he calls his water warriors, so that his water harvesting techniques can reach every part of the globe.

Photos: Nidhi Roy

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Nidhi Roy

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