Archive for the ‘Paani’ Category

Happy Holi :”Once they had water to throw at each other”

Those are the first words in the Script for Paani.
The film tells the story of a city divided into two. Those few that can afford water, and those that cannot and have to fight for it. And those that can afford it protect it with armed might.
It tells the story of one year in the life of this city. From one Harvest festival of Holi to the next.
Wherever I go in the world it is the same story. Just been around Rajasthan and that’s what is on everyone’s mind. We are running out of Water. In Africa it is the same. In China it is the same. In Australia it is the same. In California it is the same. And when a city runs out of Water, pipelines are created to bring the water from agricultural areas. Creating huge social unrest because the farmers in that area start running out of water.
So this time as we play Holi, and everyone squirts water at each other, remember we may be the last generation that has the luxury to do that. Unless of course you are rich and selfish enough to use bottled water to do so.
Happy Holi, everyone.

Looking for a hot bath ?

Completely jet lagged from my flight from NY, I thought perhaps that I would indulge in a hot bath in my hotel room in Powai (Mumbai),. And I felt really guilty doing so. I imagined the water lying in the bathtub and looked out of the window and saw a slum. I wondered how many families would be standing near dry taps for hours waiting for water. The water in my bathtub would be at least 20 bucketfuls. I realized when you read and think deeply about issues, like the environment, you really do change your perspective. Its all about re-educating yourself to the changing world around yourself, and re – aligning to it.
All my life, living in India, in Europe and in the US, I have loved the idea of soaking in a hot bath, but having thought about the issue’s of water facing our planet, and especially India, I find I am no longer able to do so. After all my film Paani is just about that. The people in the upper city have swimming pools while those in the lower city are standing in line for hours waiting for tankers to bring them water
The pic above is from my hotel room. The swimming pool against the gradually dwindling lake at Powai. I remember this lake. The late Kaifi Azmi ( Shabana’s poet father) and his friends used to come here and spend hours fishing. It felt like the countryside then. But now of course, it is teeming with high rise buildings, and a gradually shrinking lake.

Paani- Coca Cola and Water tables in Rajasthan

I often wonder why the Indian press does not take up this issue – nor does the Indian government. The huge calamity looming over India right now, that will potentially make economic growth grind to a halt is not the US subprime crisis, but the shortage of ground water that is gradually eating away at agriculture. This is not about a bad monsoon or drought. It is about accelarating erosion of ground water levels in India. 60 % of Indian agriculture depends upon ground water. I remember as a kid in Delhi playing in the small vegetable patch kept by my grandfather in Nizamuddin. There was a hand pump that would bring water up at the first stroke – and then in a few years the hand pump went completely dry. As did the vegetable garden.
As part of the sustaining an ‘agriculture revotion’ in India, the ‘tube well’ as it came to be known was encouraged and promoted as the mantra for the agricultural revolution. It was successful at that time – but we are now getting to grips with the ecological consequences of that ground water becoming more and more scarce. It needs to be managed, and better ways must be found to replenish it through management techniques like water harvesting. With our glaciers retreating and rivers becoming more unreliable, its our only hope.
However it does not help that companies like Coca Cola are allowed to freely suck up ground water in areas that are already water stressed. First in Kerala – where the Coca Cola factory sucked up so much of the ground water that paddy fields in surrounding areas went dry ruining the farmers, and now the same in Rajasthan. It is not an equitable competition for a scarce resource between the farmers and Coca Cola, who has the capital to build deeper and more powerful bore wells. And get electricity (through the government as they are classed industrial or by their own generators) 24 hours a day – while the farmers are only able to operate their bore wells based on a very interrupted and non reliable power supply. Lets not blame Coca Cola – they are a multinational committed to a return on shareholders value. Lets blame ourselves and our government policies. Here is a link to PBS interview with farmers and Coca Cola – click on the streaming video link within the site.
Actually if we put an ‘environmental’ cost to a can of coke, or branded bottled water – both should cost at least 4 times what they are available at now. So we consumers also carry a large part of the blame for what has become an effective privatization of water resources in India. We consume carelessly….


Paani : rain water harvesting : beautiful short

Paani: The rise of the Beijing causes disaster in rural areas

As part of the script development for my next film Paani (water) I have made certain assumption, one of which is that rural ground water will be depleted to satisfy the needs of the mega ciites, causing famine in rural areas, leading in turn, to huge migrations to the Mega cities. Creating unsustainable Mega Cities. So the cycle goes on and Paani (the film) tells the story of one such Mega City (or part of it) where water has run out and the Water Wars have started. So here is something that someone sent me to support the research for Paani – it talks about the rural areas around Beijing going dry so that Beijing can drink water. But for how long ? Please read if you have the patience.
“Going thirsty so Beijing can drink
THE water level at Wangkuai Reservoir, one of the biggest in Hebei province, is close to an historic high—in a region gripped by drought. This has been achieved by hoarding the water. Local farmers say they have received none for two years. A hydroelectric plant by the huge dam is idle. Wangkuai is preparing for what officials call a “major political task”—channelling its water to Beijing, to help boost the city’s severely depleted supplies……


‘Flow”: the Corporatization of our Planet’s fresh water resources : is the World Bank part of the conspiracy ?

For those of you that have not heard of Irena Salina, look out for her name. She has just made a terrifying, informative, well researched documentary on the future of fresh Water resources on our Planet. She shows how gradually all the main Water resources are being usurped by major water corporations all over the world, and how the World Bank is completely complicit. The documentary is called ‘Flow” and is about to be released at the Angelique in NY. Catch the trailer :

That is the fundamental premise to my feature Paani also. Experts world wide, who I might add, do NOT live in Water Stressed parts of the world, are imposing the argument that ” the only way to manage a dwindling resource is to get people to pay for it, so that they use it with care” Feels right in theory but what price to you do set on water ? , and whatever price you set, 85 % of the people will not be able to afford it. So we will get situations like what is already happening in these so called farm houses outside New Delhi. No farm house is complete without a swimming pool, while the adjoining farms are running dry for lack of water and the farmers are selling their lands as they cannot grow anything. For more farm houses. Houses that are thirstily sucking out the ground water for private swimming pools !
Water is the new global weapon of social and control and exploitation.

Is this how all of us will get water soon ?

My assistant went out and shot a little video in Colaba, in Mumbai. There’s no water in the taps in this area. It is served by Water Tankers, that come once a day if you are very lucky, and you queue up for hours to get water. A few burly guys are pushing and pulling people, bossing them around – (and they have a kind of a barricade for the tanker that is carrying water) – I’m not sure who those guys are. They certainly don’t look like government employees to me. They look like local goons.

What’s interesting is this is not a slum of Mumbai. This video was shot right in the heart of Cloaba which is where the Taj Mahal Hotel is, one of the ten best hotels in the world.


Water Film Festival : support it if you can please

Dear Shekhar
I have been volunteering as project co-ordinator for an international water film festival titled Voices From the Waters. The first edition was held in Bangalore in 2005. The second was held in June last year and it is still continuing as a travelling film festival across cities, small towns and institutions across the country. It has been concieved as a platform without any defined boundaries celebrating the blue gold and building awareness. The next edition of the festival is scheduled for September 2008. I have attatched below the call for entries. We would be extremely grateful if you could help spread the word or even offer us suggestions for the festival.
Please refer to the website or any further information. It would be great for any help you could of luck,

In search of water

Every year, over 500,000 children in India never reach the age of 5 because of water-related diseases like diarrhea, gastroenteritis, hepatitis. Over 300 million Indians have no access to toilets. Already, 224 million Indians live in water stress. About 70% of irrigation needs and 80% of municipal water supplies come from groundwater sources. However, depleted aquifers and lowered groundwater tables mean that this is no longer sustainable. It has been estimated that by as early as 2020, India’s demand for water will exceed ALL sources of supply.
Can we make a difference? One individual thinks so. And one organization is supporting him in his mission for the cause of water. On April 26th 2008, Sharada Prasad will start a 19,000 km Motorcycle Ride across India. The objective of Sharada’s ride is to discover what water means to people across the country. The problems faced by people with respect to water are different in different parts of the country. Support him by going to ;

Paani – will Water turn against us ?

We have forgotten how to worship water. After all if water is available to you on tap, and in the same place as you do your daily toilette , how could you even respect it ? Water to us has become functional – so we have started to take it for granted. It is now our right to have water running in our taps at our will and our command. But it never used to be like that and I assure you it will never be like that again. Nor was it supposed to be. We were supposed to go to water, not the other way round. In all of human history Water has been worshipped by every culture. Water was the centre of all community, of all existence. But now we pollute it, commercialize it, turn it for profit. We do everything but worship it. So Water is turning against us. That which nourished the very essence of life will soon teach us to value very drop we can find. Worship every drop.