100 Water Heroes: Amla Ruia

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Social Activist and Founder of the Aakar Charitable Trust

Known fondly as Water Mother, Amla Ruia is a social activist based in Mumbai, who has reintroduced traditional water harvesting techniques and built check dams in over 100 villages throughout Rajasthan. Rajasthan is an area particularly affected by drought and, in an effort to find a “sustainable and permanent solution for saving water,” Amla founded Aakar Charitable Trust.

The Aakar Charitable Trust relies on community-based approaches to the “protection of natural sources such as water, vegetation and soil as well as the promotion of dynamic education.” Together with local communities, the trust locates landscapes that will naturally capture water, such as a reservoir. Rather than building a dam from scratch, they are able to build check dams by using “the natural contours of the hilly landscape, building slopes, and shoring up spaces, to catch and keep water in these semi-natural basins or check dams” (Peerzeda, 2017).

Under Amla’s leadership, the Aakar Charitable Trust has built over 200 check dams in 100 villages across Rajasthan. The trust supplies 60% of the resources necessary to build a check dam, and relies on the community to provide the remaining 40%. Amla’s reintroduction of this traditional rainwater harvesting technique has transformed the lives of many living in the Rajasthan region, and she has been able to witness these positive shifts first-hand:

“The whole scenario is not changed, it is transformed. Where they couldn’t even own one cattle, they now have eight to nine. Where they couldn’t take one crop, they are taking two — or sometimes even a third crop. Their female offspring are going to school because the mother no longer has to go long distances to fetch water.” (in Jones, 2017)

Amla is one of our #100WaterHeroes for reintroducing traditional water harvesting techniques as a sustainable solution to Rajasthan’s drought, and for engaging local communities throughout the process.

Linkedin: linkedin.com/in/amla-ruia-67936a129

Aakar Charitable Trust Website: https://aakarcharitabletrust.weebly.com/