Given the extensive and much needed work being done by Grassroots, it was important to know what motivated Anita Paul and Kalyan Paul to get into this. Excerpts from an interview…
Your group has been serving the people of Uttarakhand and HP for 25 years now. What major changes do you see in their lives now after all these years?
Grassroots Holistic Intervention Strategies has led to an improvement in the quality of life for remote mountain communities as follows. It has enabled access to enhanced quantities of safe drinking water in614 hamlets in 55 blocks of 12 Districts of Uttarakhand children and Himachal Pradesh- On a typical day, Infiltration Wells are providing 2.40 million litres of safe drinking water to approximately 17,600 households with close to 100,000 people or 25 litres per capita.
This has resulted in improved hygiene as well as ‘time saving’ in terms of fetching water. Women now feel that they have more time to spend with their, pay greater attention to domestic cleanliness and generally have more independence. Grassroots promotes Environmental Sanitation in the form of twin-pit water-seal toilets in order to address the issue of water borne disease and provide an iota of dignity, especially to women.
Over the years, about 4,400 toilets have been installed in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. Grassroots has been installing biogas units as an appropriate domestic energy option in order to reduce the biotic pressure on fast dwindling forest resources and provide clean energy to women leading to positive impacts on their health by reducing smoke in their kitchens. 3,000 households have adopted this alternate energy.
1500 women are earning sustainable livelihoods leading to economic and social empowerment. They are now also taking on leadership roles in their communities and contributing to the overall development of their region. Women are playing lead role in greening their degraded village common lands and there by impacting positively on the hydrology of their village water resources through improved percolation of rain-water. Over one million saplings of broad leaf fodder trees have been planted and protected by the self- help groups of women.
That sounds like a real revolution raging in the quiet hills! But to come to another question that has been worrying us. There has been a surge in the past decade or so in construction, mining, urbanizing activities in the hills. Has this affected your work?
The processes of modernisation have been making swift inroads in these remote mountain communities as well leading to a change in the aspirations of younger generations. They are finding themselves at the cusp of change wherein traditional subsistence farming systems are threatened and new skills for engaging in modern processes are adequately being addressed.
Young people have long been turning towards metropolitan cities for their future. Is it possible for the youth here to rediscover the treasures in their home regions?
They are migrating to urban sweat shops not by choice but due to lack of opportunities. If infrastructure and livelihood options can be improved then out- migration can be reduced considerably.
This is linked to the issue of educational and employment opportunities. How far is it possible to retain local talent? What future do brilliant students have here?
This has been partially answered above. But in addition to it I want to add that the younger generations must build on their entrepreneurial skills and set up their own enterprises and provide opportunities to their peers for further growth of their region.
Delhi has become a gas chamber, as people say. Any suggestions you would like to convey to Delhi citizens to improve their environment?
Delhi environment needs concerted efforts from both civil society and more importantly, the implementation of appropriate measures by the concerned authorities. Perspective plans needs to be drawn up with a modern vision and future growth of the national capital which currently is in a deplorable state of affairs.
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