-by Shruti Syal
Any biologist would know of Hydra– a miniature, and certainly less ugly version of the mythical eight-headed creature with each head capable of regeneration- as creature immortal. Little buds grow out of every little point on its body, sprout tentacles near maturity, and bud off. The ‘parent’ itself does not age either.
Lately, every person we’ve met for ACWUS has led us to an average of two more people who we need to meet to be able to take the work further. So each time we tick a name on our list, two more find their way to the bottom. Like Hydra and its never-ending persistence.
It’s exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. But we always feel like we’re drowning if we stick to mental notes in these hour to hour and a half long meetings, because generally each piece of information comes with an addition to the TO-DO list.
ACWUS’ nexus of stakeholders is pretty massive. There’s Delhi Jal Board that generally owns the drains and the land 5 metres on either side of the drains. Next, we have to rope in the other land-owning authorities that are likely to own the surrounding lands- Delhi Development Authority (DDA), Central Public Works Department (CPWD), Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC), Flood and Irrigation Control Department. We hear that ownership of land around drains is generally by a mosaic of these agencies, so as soon as we’re gung-ho about any site, we sniff out the land owning agencies because there might be plenty to contact, meaning plenty of agendas.
A smart suggestion we were given by Gautam Bhan from IIHS was to target settlements listed under DUSIB- the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board– that were sitting next to open drains. Their mandate is likely to mirror ours, that of improving environmental hygiene in these areas.
Another GARGANTUAN task is going to be getting waste collection organized. Luckily the agencies involved in municipal solid waste management are more or less the same as the land owning authorities- MCD, NDMC, DJB. Like most Delhi residents who approach their local government bodies for the very first time with mostly others’ agony tales, there’s the initial apprehension, but we’re optimistic.
Simultaneously we are meeting potential partners– universities and students, database management and ICT agencies, scientific and design consultants.
Universities with the requisite programs and lab facilities would ensure a sustained student base that would need the kind of program ACWUS has to offer;
ICT agencies familiar with the kind of system we would need to appropriately dispense the data collected to the end users;
Students who would carry this forward, be it as student volunteers, curriculum teachers, initial site surveyors;
Ecologists, landscape architects, and environmental engineers with the right technical knowledge of wetland ecology and wastewater treatment designs;
Construction companies to physically build the wetland and look into initial maintenance;
and all miscellaneous agents or organizations that can help us get the pilot up and running, particularly those working in the decentralized service sector for water, wastewater, or solid waste management.
All this will take shape as we work our way into our first community starting this Sunday. This means 2-3 months of Sunday mornings listening and learning from them, watching them go about their weekends, talking to the women and kids to start with. And I suspect these Sundays will be just as wrought with information uptake, but unlike the multiplying Hydra that is our network of mentors and partner organizations.