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  Volume 4 - Issue 06 JUNE 2006
 
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THE FOURTH WORLD WATER FORUM LEARNS MUCH

FROM THE SRI SATHYA SAI DRINKING WATER PROJECTS


Introduction

The Fourth World Water Forum (4WWF) was held recently in Mexico City from 16th - 22nd March 2006 on the theme of "Local Actions for a Global Challenge". The World Water Forum is the flagship summit of the World Water Council which was established in 1996 on the initiative of renowned water specialists and international organizations. Its mission is "to promote awareness, build political commitment and trigger action on critical water issues at all levels, including the highest decision-making level, to facilitate the efficient conservation, protection, development, planning, management and use of water in all its dimensions on an environmentally sustainable basis for the benefit of all life on earth."

By providing a debating platform the Council aims to reach a common strategic vision on water resources and water services management amongst all stakeholders in the worldwide water community. In the process, the Council also catalyses initiatives and activities, whose results converge every three years at the World Water Forum.
 

Nearly 20,000 people converged in Mexico City from 140 countries to take part in the two hundred working sessions, during which 1,500 local actions were presented. The participants included official representatives, 78 ministers, 120 mayors, 150 legislators, 1,395 journalist experts, apart from many NGOs, and civil society representatives, etc.

But why are we interested in the World Water Forum? Simply because the Forum is very interested and excited about Swami’s Water Mission.

The Sri Sathya Sai Anantapur Drinking Water Project is a telling example of how with inspired leadership and proper public-private partnership stupendous objectives can be achieved. In the case study prepared by the World Water Council on Swami’s Anantapur Project available on their website (www.worldwatercouncil.org), the last paragraph states,

“The uniqueness of the (Anantapur) project lies in every aspect of the Project Management right from its Design, Planning, Engineering, Implementation, Cost effectiveness, Service delivery, Operation & Maintenance, Time & cost management, its replicability and finally achieving the end goal of supplying fluoride free safe drinking water to a million inhabitants of the district and thereby improving their health conditions and ensure better quality of life. A non-governmental organization, led the way in showing that the success of the entire endeavor depends on Unity, Purity and Divinity.”

 

To give you more details of what exactly went on in the forum, we have below an interview with Prof. Anantharaman who actually presented the case study of Swami’s Drinking Water Projects to the forum in Mexico City recently. Prof Anantharaman has worked as Managing Director of several multinational companies in Africa, Asia, Europe, USA and also as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of a Transnational Business conglomerate based in Switzerland. He has served as an adjunct professor in several business schools including the Harvard Business School and is currently an honorary faculty member in the School of Business Management at Puttaparthi. In conversation with Prof. Anantharaman (AN) is Prof. G Venkataraman (GV), a former Vice Chancellor of Swami’s University. Over to the interview:

Prof. G Venkataraman In Conversation With Prof. Anantharaman

 

GV: Sai Ram! We have with us in our studios Professor Anantharaman possibly known to you because we had invited him earlier to our studios. That time, we chatted about his coming to Swami and his experiences. Today he is here for a very specific and a somewhat different kind of reason. Professor Anantharaman is just back from Mexico City where he attended the fourth WWF.

Prior to that, he attended the third WWF in Kyoto, three years ago. So what has WWF got to do with Swami you might be wondering? I am going to now ask Professor to tell us something about the connection with WWF and Swami.

So Professor, welcome to our studios. I think you must begin by educating us a little about the WWF and what it stands for? Who organizes it? And how frequently does it meet, where does it meet and why does it meet?

Prof. Anatharaman (left) being interview by Prof.Venkataraman
 

AN: The WWF meets every three years. The third WWF was in Kyoto three years ago and during the time they met in Kyoto, and in the earlier water forum also, they developed certain Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for availability of water to people all over the world.

GV: Is the WWF by any chance a part of the United Nations, officially or unofficially?

AN: It is an unofficial body of the United Nations. And UN – HABITAT had sponsored a special programme in both, the third WWF and in the fourth WWF, to concentrate on Millennium Development Goals.



(The UN–HABITAT is the United Nations agency for Human Settlements Programme; it was established in 1978 and its headquarters is at the UN Office at Nairobi, Kenya.)


One of the millennium development goals of the WWF is to reduce in the next ten to twenty years the number of people going without water by 50%. Towards this they wanted to examine several local actions that have taken place over the world to supplement governmental work to ensure that we reach the millennium development goal. They were interested to learn about the Sri Sathya Sai Drinking Water Project in Anantapur in the third WWF, and subsequently in the fourth WWF.

 

GV: How did they come to hear about the Anantapur Project at all? Because even here some people don’t know about it.

AN: I think UN-HABITAT, which was one of the co-sponsors of this WWF, have heard about our Anantapur project. In fact they had come and visited us here. UN-HABITAT had even asked the Housing and Urban Development Corporation of Delhi (HUDCO) to do an impact evaluation study a few years ago. And the Asian Development Bank which funded the evaluation study is also aware of our project. So the UN-HABITAT is aware of us successfully carrying out this local action programme and we presented this project at the third WWF.

GV: How did you happen to be invited to the third WWF?

AN: Basically, the representative from UN-HABITAT was at Prashanti Nilayam at some point in time. At that time, I also happened to be here. We got talking to each other - in fact, it was in your office when we all had the meeting, Mr. Chakravarti (Secretary, Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust) was there and you were also there.

GV: Oh yes! It was a long time ago!

AN: So we were discussing this, I from an academic interest and also from a management point of view. The UN-HABITAT representative felt that a case study must be written about the Anantapur Water Project. So when the third WWF was convened in Kyoto, there was an invitation to me to present this case study which I was supposed to write on the Anantapur Water Project. That’s how the whole connection started.

GV: So what exactly did you tell the august audience in Kyoto?

[To read an earlier report on the Third World Water Forum we had in H2H in 2003, Click here].

Prof. Anantharaman’s Address To The Third WWF

AN: In Kyoto, my talk was scheduled to be about the financial model of the local action programmes of the water project. So there were several other talks about pay back period, cost of the project, recovery etc. The focus was basically upon that and when I went in there I said that at that point in time, I was not going to say anything about the financial aspects of the project which was not very relevant.

 

What is more relevant about the project was how the whole product was conceived and carried out - so I did not talk about the financial aspects at all. I said that I did not want to tell them about a project case study, or about finance, but I wanted to tell them a story - a story about love. And I said this is a love story. The whole project started as a love story.

GV: They must have all being shocked!

AN: That received attention I suppose, because previously people were talking about pay back periods, financial charges, and replicability. That somebody should then talk about a love story in connection with a public activity programme certainly caught people’s attention!

GV: So how did the love story go? Did you get an Oscar?

Prof. Anantharaman At The Third WWF
   

AN: No, I didn’t get an Oscar!

GV: But how was it received?

AN: It was received well. Being the first attempt to introduce this programme, there were a lot of interested parties at that time. The local press wanted to know all about the water project, and a little about Swami, so it had a good beginning.

GV: Okay, before we get on to that, I think you must tell us and repeat for our benefit as to what this love story is about; how did you relate this love story; and what was the love that you were talking about?

Swami’s Love Story - The Anantapur Water Project

AN: Basically what I told them was that I am here to present a case study of a water project in Anantapur District in Andhra Pradesh in India. I don’t know much about water nor do I wish to talk to you about the financing angle. I don’t even want to talk to you about a case study. What I really want to talk to you about is the fact that it is a story and not only a mere story but a love story. How one Man’s Love and Compassion for a large number of people who were suffering without water, was responsible for ensuring that water was permanently available for them through this project. And then I brought in Swami and I carried on.

GV: What kind of questions were you asked? Obviously your presentation must have been very different from all the others, and it must have taken them quite by surprise.

 
   
Prof. Anantharaman presenting Swami's Water Project at Kyoto, Japan

AN: Within the session I didn’t face very many questions because of time constraints. But immediately outside, as soon as the programme was over, there was a lot of interest. People asked me ‘what is this love story that you’re talking about?’ So I repeated the whole love story.

GV: What kind of people came to you?

Interest From The Conference Delegates

AN: Public service people, secretaries of government, ministers from several different countries, people connected with water and water projects from Universities who were also activists pro and against water being a basic right of people.

GV: People are against water being available?

AN: No, basically they are activists who feel that water resources must become the property of everybody.

GV: Oh! You mean it should be socialized.

AN: Exactly, it should be socialized. They are against pharmaceutical companies taking away the water.

GV: They were against the privatization of water!

 

AN: Exactly! There were also university people, people engaged in public policy making and people who implement policies on behalf of several companies.

GV: What kind of questions did they ask you at the outset?

AN: At the outset, they wanted straightaway to go to the question of who is this person who has taken this as a complete local action programme? What is His interest? Why did He get involved in a government area? What was there in it for Him? Why did He have to do it? Who is He? Where is He and how is He? It quickly shifted away from water to Swami Himself.

I think there were more questions on Swami and the reason why He did that, rather than how He did it, which was supposed to be the focus of the programme.

GV: So, what kind of impression do you think they were left with after listening to all this?

AN: I think that they were definitely left with the impression that if there is good work needing to be done for society, if sufficient leadership is provided for taking care of this work, there are enough people in the world who can come forward and do that.


As long as inspired leadership is available we can raise the common good of all, even if government is not able to provide inspired leadership. Everybody wants to contribute something towards the common goal. There is a basic desire on the part of everybody to do good.

GV: Did they understand that Swami did the project for free and gave away the assets free?

AN: In fact, the question where did the funds come from was the first thing that they wanted to know. And when I said that these funds came from contributions from civil societies all over the world, they were surprised that a civil society in another country should contribute to a water project here. Secondly, when they found out that the whole project was completed from these contributions and was finally handed over as a gift to the government they were very surprised - why would someone do this without any obvious motive or advantage for them? They just couldn’t believe that such a thing was possible in the 20th century! (The Anantapur Water Project was formally handed over to the Indian government in October 1997.)
 
Click on the links below to know more Swami's Water Projects:

GV: I am not surprised. Okay, so what happened after Kyoto ? Was there any follow up or any kind of attempt to learn from this example?

The Anantapur Water Project Is Selected As Exemplary

AN: What happened in between Kyoto and Mexico City where this fourth WWF took place? I am not privy to what exactly happened but UN-HABITAT informed me that during this process they short-listed several projects in the world, where local action can provide a good support and substitute for government action and how these could be successful. The Anantapur Water Project was one of the 10 that was short-listed. And the case study of this Anantapur Water Project, and the 9 others which were short-listed were circulated to public policy bodies all over the world thereby creating a greater awareness of what local action can achieve.

GV: Are you aware of the other projects?

AN: One of the ten is from Pakistan; somebody had devised some water distribution metering system and there was another project from El Salvador. They all seemed to be more on design of new kinds of equipment for water distribution or preservation, etc.

GV: Facilitation of water rather than supply of water.

AN: This was probably the only project of its kind where there was cooperation between the non-government organization, government, the contractor and the beneficiary.

GV: Also here, the objective is to bring relief to people having suffering from distress.

AN: Exactly. The fact that it was in the Anantapur District, one of the most arid districts, where there were eleven famines out of the fourteen in the whole state. I think that was all emphasized. I think that it was appreciated that a lot of relief of people’s suffering was achieved.

Prof. Anantharaman At The Mexican World Water Forum

GV: And one million people were getting it! Okay, so let’s come to Mexico City in the year 2006. Tell us what you saw there and how was it different if at all from Kyoto ?

AN: The UN-HABITAT again invited me to come to the Mexico City to present the Anantapur Water Project to a group of people since we were one of the 10 who were selected among the 10 best projects in the world.

[To download the powerpoint presentation of Prof. Anantharaman on Swami's Water Projects, click here.]

GV: Was the audience the same or different?

AN: In fact, the audience was much bigger in the sense that the total number of people who attended the WWF in Mexico was 17,000 people!

 

GV: 17,000!!

AN: But of course all the 17,000 didn’t attend this session. There were several sessions, about twenty of them.

GV: Parallel sessions?

AN: Yes, parallel sessions and this was one of the sessions. But the number of people who attended in Mexico was at least 2 to 3 times that of Kyoto, so a much bigger affair.

GV: Before I come to your presentation, just for satisfying our curiosity, what kind of people attended the Mexican conference? In other words, were they more from the third world or was it equally distributed between the first world and the third world?

 

African Youth perform for the delegates

Typical audience at one of the many seminars

AN: I would say there were a greater number of people from the third world than the first world. There were also some people from the first world, but the participants seemed to be predominantly from the third world. While if I talk about the people who made presentations, I think there were more from the first world than the third world.

GV: The problems are more in the third world - at least larger numbers of people from the third world participated. Now let’s get back to your own presentation. Was it in any way different from what you said in Kyoto ?

AN: Well, what they thought was that I must provide continuity from Kyoto and carry it one step further. So, I briefly commented and remarked by saying that when this was presented three years ago in Kyoto, I talked about this being a love story but I want to carry it one step further and say this is not merely a story of love, but also a story of compassion.

Because love by itself is meaningless unless it results in some kind of an action. You need compassion for that action. I laid emphasis here on the fact that the founder of this trust had this compassion for this very large number of people who were going without water. And this compassion carried them forward in order to establish the project and in as much as in the earlier session, there were questions about sustainability, replicability of all these other projects. I did not spend much time in describing the engineering of this project but I basically talked about the kind of impact that this project has made subsequently.

 
   
Prof. Anantharaman at the Fourth WWF

I think Radio Sai had produced a poster which was exhibited in Kyoto on the uniqueness of the project, its impact and benefits. There were several reports such as a story of a girl who said that from tomorrow onwards, she can go to school. There was a mother who went back to work because she didn’t have to spend so much time drawing water. There was a story of another girl who said till yesterday she was spending so much time drawing water but from tomorrow she can go to school. There was a story of another girl who said she was walking 4 ½ miles to fetch water everyday but now she can get water from outside the house. After talking about compassion, I focused more upon what is the impact to the society in that area.

Swami’s Example To The World

GV: You mentioned one word - replicability. So, tell us what you said to them about replicability. How did you define that word?

AN: With respect to replicability, what they want to evaluate is whether it is possible to replicate the same concept, with the same method of financing. I said that the proof of replicability is in fact that the project has replicated itself. Because, using the same kind of management cooperation, after Anantapur, we’ve had Medhak, Mehboobnagar, Chennai, and Godavari.

If you combine all these, there are a total of 10 million people who did not have water now provided with access to water. One of the Millennium Development Goals is to help the 1 billion people in the world without water. So 10 million is 1% of 1 billion. Therefore one local action programme has solved the problem for 1% of the total people in the world who were without water.

It has replicated itself in 4 or 5 different areas. The engineering is different, the projects are different, but the concept is exactly the same.

 
   
One of the posters displayed at the conference

GV: Here I would like to quote something which Dr. Safaya says. You know, Dr. Safaya is the director of our Super Specialty Hospitals. Many visitors who see him ask whether this can be replicated elsewhere. And the standard answer is that yes if you have a Sai Baba there you can replicate it! I would just try to ask you whether you are asked that kind of question.

AN: Not exactly that kind of a question but that question is implied.

Can The World Follow?

GV: Okay, I will play the devil’s advocate and I will ask you what a pressman would have asked you. He would have said: “Well, there was a driving force here in the shape of Sri Sathya Sai Baba; whose love motivated and created these projects. How can you say it is replicable because it is confined to one person?”

AN: The leadership was provided by Sathya Sai Baba through His Love and Compassion. But, basically what Swami did was to tap human beings’ desire to do good to others, to cooperate, and to work together etc. And towards this He created a cooperative endeavour between 4 or 5 different bodies who work together for a common cause. It is possible to create that cooperation elsewhere using this model; all it requires is somebody else to replicate this model and do it somewhere else.

GV: Can I put it this way? We all have within us the latent goodness. If the doors can be opened, and the leadership can be found, to harness this goodness, then the model becomes replicable.

AN: Absolutely! In fact, 2000 years ago, man wanted to do nothing more than to do good for others. There is this basic desire to do good; there is this basic desire to be part of a community. The basic desire to work together is always there.

GV: So, can I put it this way that if one follows the example of Swami and provides inspired leadership in the same way, these projects can be done elsewhere, maybe not in the same scale?

AN: It should definitely be possible.

GV: Very good. Okay, now how many days did this Mexico City meeting last?

 

AN: The Mexico City meeting was almost a week, six sessions a day. It was on a much larger scale because here they talked not only about water but also about sanitation.

GV: Are both problems connected?

AN: Yes, both are connected problems. I would say that since there are a larger number of people, there was a much greater awareness created about the water project at the Mexico presentation. In fact, at the end of the session when I was talking about the Godavari Project I mentioned the stories Swami related about how when our engineers went there, they were confronted by Naxalites. And when they were told that Swami has sent people to lay the water pipe line, the Naxalites were totally surprised that somebody should bother about them who are outside the pale of the law and they started supporting our people.

The Fourth WWF in Mexico City, a session in progress...
   

“I Like Your Boss”

When it was mentioned, I think it had a very sympathetic reaction from the people. In fact one of the gentlemen at the end of this presentation came to me and said: “I like what your boss is doing.” I said: “Well I will certainly convey it to Him that you like what He is doing.” He said: “Look, we are a bunch of people who have a lot of money. We are from the west coast.”

GV: This man was an American?

AN: Yes, he was an American. “I and my friends want to do something about it. What is it that we can do? Can we come and meet your boss?” I said: “You certainly can come and meet my boss as you call it.” He said: “Do you have His business card?” I said: I don’t have His business card but here’s His photograph; you can have His photograph.” “Is there no email id?” I said: “He normally doesn’t attend to email but this is a photograph, this is where He lives and you can come and see Him and He will talk to you.” And there were several requests for they wanted copies of the power point presentations to be sent to them.

There were requests from several universities for this to be sent. There were 2 or 3 US based organizations which had been formed for establishing public utility projects in the third world. They wanted to know in more detail about this project, in fact subsequent to the presentation, I spent a lot of time talking to these individual people, and it created a much greater awareness.

GV: Were there any world leaders who attended this Forum?

AN: There were ministers from several countries, I particularly noted visitors from several West African, East African, and South African countries. There was a very large contingent from China, and a group of people from Cambodia and Japan, and I could notice that there were a lot of ministries connected with Public Utility and Water, etc.

GV: Was the U.N Secretary General there?

 

 

AN: The UN Secretary General was not there, but the head of UN-HABITAT, who is an assistant to the UN Secretary General and has a direct reporting relationship to the UN Secretary General was present there.

 

Delegates from the UN- HABITAT and African Ministers of Environment discuss the water situation in their respective countries

Media Interviews

GV: Did the media show any interest in your presentation of Swami’s project?

 

AN: Yes, there were local Mexican television people who were present during the session who wanted to talk to me and there was another television agency called teleSUR which basically broadcasts to the entire South America. It’s a very popular Spanish language TV channel. They were interested in interviewing me and I had a session with them 2 or 3 days later where they interviewed me for almost about one hour.

GV: What did they ask you and what did you tell them?

AN: The teleSUR interviewer wanted to focus more on this water activism than anything else so she asked me questions about what is my belief about water being a basic right of people? I tried to deflect it completely away and say: look, I don’t want to talk about rights here.

Prof. Anantharaman answering questions
 

Basically, we are concerned with responsibilities. As a person connected with this project, we believe we have a responsibility to ensure that water is made available to people so that people can drink it. So I would shift to responsibility, and she would shift back to rights, so this battle went on for a while almost throughout, but somewhere after about half way they were all completely interested in knowing all about the water project.

GV: And were they interested in knowing about Swami?

 

AN: In fact, I didn’t know how quite to bring Swami in because every time I used to go towards the trust and the founder of this trust, the interviewer would deflect me away to water rights and then I would go back to the trust and she would deflect me to the water rights. So this battle went on for a while. I was feeling pretty uncomfortable that I have not brought in Swami anywhere here. And I would satisfy myself if Swami doesn’t want to be brought in here; He only wants the world to know what is being done.

But right in the end, the cameraman of all the people, suddenly turned around and asked me: “Look here, do you have a photograph of the founder of the trust?” Fortunately, I found I had a photograph of Swami in my coat pocket. So I took that out and while he took the photograph of Swami’s picture, I had an opportunity to talk a little about Swami. I am sure the devotees in South America would all be very happy to see this, because there is extensive coverage in South America.

GV: If you don’t mind, I would like to do a little commercial for H2H. The issue of April 2006, carries a feature of Sai activities in South America starting with Mexico. So we have an article telling the world about South America because many people don’t know much about Latin America, they only know about North America. There is an article on Sai activities in Mexico and how it started and so on. [To read the first article on Latin America and about Mexico, click here.] Now getting back to your visit to Mexico, apart from this television interview, did you happen to see any Sai activities there or did you at least meet any Sai devotees there?

Visit To A Vibrant Mexico City Sai Centre

AN: In fact, there were about three or four of us Sai devotees in that conference; I was there; Mr. Ramakrishnan of Larsen and Toubro was also there, and Kalyan Ray was also there from UN-HABITAT. They had called all of us to come and attend the Sai Center meeting. They had asked Kalyan Ray to make a presentation about the Sai Net project in Africa and also on Education in Human Value Systems. They asked Ramakrishnan and me also to speak and share our experiences. I have attended Sai centers in several parts of the world but I must say that the intensity and the close devotion that I was able to see at the Mexican Sai center was something which was extremely touching. The people were very happy to see us. They asked all sorts of close questions on what is happening at Prashanti Nilayam, what Swami is doing, etc. It was a very intensely emotional experience being with them.

GV: How many people were there in the Mexico City Center ?

AN: I would say there were about 50 to 60 people.

GV: Of course the city is big, there must be many centers.

AN :It was only one of the four centers and the meeting in the center went off so well that they asked us to come over the next day and talk to them. There were a larger number of people who came on that day, they were all very happy to see us. The amount of love and devotion they had for Swami is outstanding. In fact they gave me a photograph of all of them and said: “Please go and give it to Swami and tell Him that Mexico loves you.” I said I will try as much as possible.

The Next WWF?

GV: Very interesting, that’s very nice. Before I thank you, I would like to know when the next WWF is.

AN:Three years hence.

GV: Where will it be?

AN: In South or West Asia, maybe in Istanbul, Turkey .

GV: So are you going to there?

AN: I don’t know, let’s see.

GV: Okay, if you go to Turkey, you should take water from the Ganges - not our rivers. Maybe you won’t find any water in the rivers. I was just reading the other day, that out of 117 rivers in the world, which have a length of more than 1000 kms, nearly half of them are dry. Water does not flow from the source to the place where the river enters the sea. That is the kind of situation that we are now in. Water is a very vital subject. In fact, as some people would say, water has become more important than oil. Not everybody needs oil - unless you have a car, you don’t need oil. But everybody needs water and you can’t live without water for more than a few hours. So water is going to become a very big issue!

AN: In fact, in H2H in one of the issues, you had presented some very interesting statistics on water which I had used in my presentation also, where you have said that 97 percent of the water in the world is in the oceans. And among the remaining 3%, 95% of the 3% is in the form of the icebergs. [To read the article, God, Man and Water in H2H, Click here].

GV: That is all that is left available for our use. Fresh water is very limited and we are going to be in deep trouble with water sooner than we realize. So I think we have to pay serious attention to Swami’s teachings on this subject; and maybe we will explore that some other time. But I would like to thank you, maybe but I would like to mention one point related to Love and Compassion if I may.

Swami says Love without Compassion is meaningless. You can’t profess Love if there is no Compassion in your heart. On the other hand, Compassion without Love is impossible. And Swami is the Embodiment of both. And when both run together, then great miracles happen. And they have happened as you must have told in Mexico, in the case of Swami’s Hospitals and in the case of Swami’s education facilities?

AN: In fact, I concluded by saying that Love with Compassion gives rise to these actions. As an example this trust is not only involved in water projects alone.

There are super specialty hospitals where there are open heart surgeries; there is a university where education from kindergarten to doctorate programmes is available, all at no cost - all using the same model of sustained leadership, based on the same values of love and compassion. So it extends to all areas of human activity, not necessarily just water.

 

GV: Well, thank you for sparing some time for us and Sai Ram to you again.

AN: Thank you. Sai Ram.


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Vol 4 Issue 06 - JUNE 2006
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