Local Solutions for Global Problems | An Exemplified Leader - Basaviyyah

Author: Apoorva Srinivas and Anjali Srinivas

In 1997, Huliyurdurga – a remote village in Karnataka, India faced severe water shortages due to scanty rainfall and drought. The water sources had dried up and the animals in the surrounding forest region were depleting in numbers, dying of thirst. The prayers for rainfall failed and stripped the farmers of any hope.

It took one man and his incredible vision to begin a change - one that transformed the entire landscape. What he did for the next few years was something none envisioned. He walked into the nearby forest alone and observed the changes in the surrounding nature throughout the day. Having identified a small depression in the middle of a forest, every day he religiously dug channels from the surrounding catchment areas in the scorching Indian summer heat and diverted them towards the depression. When the scanty rainfall made its appearance, it was diverted through the channels forming multiple river-lets, all directed towards the depression eventually transforming it into a lake.

This promising solution in the middle of Ujini Reserve Forest, which is off-limits to people, becomes his pilot project. By toiling harsh months, picking up stone by stone, shaping his creation to perfection, he creates an impermeable bottom for the depression. He then decides to provide it bunding and branch channels to prevent excess flow of water during heavy rains. Within a few months, birds and animals started flocking. He started to grow fruit trees around the lake allowing its shade and leaves to shed into the water to naturally fertile the lake. He left fishes and tortoises to keep the lake fresh. Within few years he transformed the entire landscape into a thriving ecosystem.

Today the pilot project stands as a sole water source to 14 nearby villages and sustains an abundant biodiversity in the middle of an arid forest. The guarding of this ecosystem has become every individual’s responsibility and is now a community project. It is treated as a sacred gift – an oasis of hope. It is not allowed to be polluted by bathing the livestock or humans and is treated as a “common village resource” by a brave man, who fought several battles that the range forest officers objected to. “It is our ray of hope” agrees the village head who believes that every village should honour such example to become self-sustainable. The reviver now receives warmly invitations from the villagers for a cup of tea and is treated with utmost respect by the forest officials. The villagers look up to him as an inspiration.

This person is none other than our grandfather - a disturbed common villager with no formal education who looked far beyond the problem. My grandfather – Mr. Basavayya, did not learn it from books to conserve water but that did not stop him from finding a sustainable indigenous solution.

Today as the world grows in complexity, we are increasingly becoming adept at finding solutions, by embracing a “creation culture” ignoring the fact that the most complex problems often have the simplest solutions and need grassroot level changes. Global problems need local solutions and there are evidences everywhere not only across India, but all over the globe of such successful simplistic solutions. As my grandfather says, it begins with a simple question of “How can I change the world around me?”

A laboriously tended love here, a community action there or perhaps a change in mindset is all we need to achieve ground-breaking results. How prepared are we to inculcate such green consciousness? As we embrace intelligent quotient and emotional quotient as parameters of our current economics success, how prepared are we to build green quotient for a sustainable future? How much efforts do we take to observe nature and learn from it? These are the questions that seldom gets addressed. It is time to embrace the culture of sacred economics.

This is where we begin our story…

…or rather why we begin...