Shree Padre’s water story

BY Frederick Noronha| IN Media Practice | 03/07/2007
Unfortunately, most of our mediamen lack a working understanding of the relations between soil, water, forest and water conservation.

 Frederick Noronha


Shree Padre (52) calls himself a "farmer by profession and a journalist by obsession". For a decade he has been studiously collecting and documenting information of success stories of rainwater harvesting from the world over.

He`s an unusual journo by any stretch of imagination. He has been founder-editor of Adike Patrike, a 19-year old unique farm magazine "by, of and for" farmers in the Kannada language. He has also headed a movement called `Krishikara Kaige Lekhani` (Pen to Farmers) and has trained hundreds of farmers in writing about their own time-tested experiences. See

One of his recent books on the `tankas` of Gujarat throws light on one of our country`s lesser-known traditional roofwater harvesting systems. He has also built up an impressive collection of slides and photographs on the subject, and done studies on the surangas (man-made caves for collecting water), a unique traditional water harvesting system of Kasaragod in Kerala and madakas (traditional percolation ponds) of Coastal Karnataka and Kasaragod, which have almost vanished.

Shree Padre is an Ashoka Fellow and has received many awards in journalism including the prestigious Statesman Award for Best Rural Reporting (1997), among others.Drought-proofing is his latest area of study. He fought on the frontlines of the Endosulfan pesticide tragedy in Kasaragod district, which he sees "next in magnitude only to Bhopal tragedy."

Frederick Noronha interviewed Shree Padre, to focus on his unusual priorities in journalism. Extracts:

FN: Why do you see rain-water harvesting as important? 

Rain-water harvesting is the only sustainable solution for water scarcity. Rain water is like a blank cheque. You deposit it in mother earth`s bank during the monsoon, it acts as ATM in summer. Unless we start depositing rainwater, we won`t be able to draw water even for our basic needs. It is a simple case -- like a bank transaction. 

FN: Tell us a bit of how  you have used journalism to promote this cause. 

Have published 10 books on rain-water harvesting, one in English, nine in Kannada so far. Have been documenting common men`s success stories of RWH and drought-proofing from different parts of the country. Criterion for selection of success stories is that it should be low-cost; done without government subsidy; the method used should be replicable. 

Documented success stories are disseminated though my rain water harvesting column (165 episodes so far) and through  I have so far given more than 450 slide-shows on rain-water harvesting to farmers group, urban communities & school children. 

In between 2002 and 2005 have travelled for around 30,000 kms in Karnataka for these awareness campaigns. The title of the campaign was `Neerimgisona Banni` (Come, let us recharge the ground water, in Kannada). Reading my rain-water harvesting success stories first in Adike Patrike, then in Janavahini and now in Vijaya Karnataka or, I would think that thousands have been inspired, implemented rain-water harvesting and got success. 

FN: Do you think this is a `winnable war`? 

Yes. Of course. It  depends to what extent you can make people aware of the problem and right solution; to what extent people`s participation comes forth. Wherever communities are more responsible and aware about water -- starting from Ralegaon Siddi upto Kattanabhavi of Belgaum -- they could acheve water sufficiency irrespective of the fact whether their`s is a heavy rainfall area or not. 

FN: What examples from across impressed you the most? 

Oh! There are many, many. There are indications that even two millenia back, rain-water harvesting was being practiced in our country. We have great wealth and experience in rain-water harvesting. Lapodiya, a small village in Rajasthan, despite eight years of drought, is still keeping a smiling face and greenery, thanks to the chauka method of soil and water conservation that Lakshman Singh of Lapodiya Gram Vikas Navyuvak Mandal has innovated. It`s the traditional methods and their wonderful knowledge of ground realities, soil and water and the co-relation between jal-jameen-jungle-jan-jaanwar (water-land-forest-people-animals) that amazes me. 

FN: Where do you think India has the most potential in rain-water harvesting? 

Wherever the communities come closely together realising that water is nobody`s private property; that it`s the wealth of the community.

What worries me is that there is dearth of right kind of information and guidance. With proper mass awareness programmes, moral support and one-to-one visit and patting the right back, positive results can be brought that would be proportionate to the levels of people`s participation there. 

FN: Do you think journalists need to do more on this front, and related issues? 

Unfortunately, most of our mediamen lack a working understanding of the relations between soil, water, forest and water conservation. I strongly advocate that special programmes have to be conducted to sensitise mediapersons in Water Journalism. 

I was associated in such a task organised by a Bangalore based NGO called CDL. The programme was done for the Prajavani-Deccan Herald group of journalists. If we have sports specialists, film specialists, law specialists, crime specialists and the like in newspapers and the TV channels, isn`t it hightime to have water specialists too? 

Newspapers and the electronic media have to groom one or two of their saffers to fit this bill. 

FN: Which states in India are doing well? Why? 

Naturally those who realised the value of water because of the scarcity. Rajasthan, Gujarath, Tamilnadu etc. Drought is the most powerful motivator for water conservation, and rain-water harvesting, than all of us -- the so called water activists put together. 

FN: What is needed for success in this field? 

Understanding the mathematics of water -- your income by way of rainwater and your expenditure -- is the basic necessity. 

People should be water literates. They have to learn the right do`s and don`ts to achieve water sustainabily. If these are fulfilled, then what you need more is sheer commonsense. That`s what our ancestors have amply illustrated even in deserts like Rajasthan. 

FN: Any advice for young journos? 

If a journalist turns "water literate", he can be a good water journalist too. Use your communication skills to make communities water content. If water scarcity splits the societies, under a selfless leadership, water can be a good adhesive to bring together the split factions of the society. Do more leg work, hunt for success stories and chronicle them. Who told you that computers can`t wipe the tears of poor? It all depends on the human mind that operates thecomputer. 


CONTACTS: Shree Padre, Post: Vaninagar, Via: Perla , Kerala

671 552. Phone: 08251-287 234; 04998-266 148. E-mail: ;





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