Down the drain – Exploring traditional water systems - A film by Tarun Jayaram

Where does our water come from? Where does it go? Can the Yamuna ever be a river again?


These are some of the questions which led Tarun Jayaram, the film-maker to explore traditional water systems in the country. From the documentary’s opening moments, the director engages us with a beautifully shot array of footages ranging from pilgrims taking a holy dip of Ganges to beautiful baolis and tankas of Rajasthan to the ancient town of Hampi in Karnataka, while establishing how rivers have been an integral part of Indian culture and how its rich tradition of harvesting rainwater needs to be re-established to deal with the present day water crisis. Over the refreshing images and soothing audio, it advocates the need for community participation in rejuvenating the traditional methods of rainwater harvesting. 

The documentary takes us on a nation-wide tour of serious water and environment related issues whether related to dam based displacement in Uttaranchal or Arunachal Pradesh or sewage and effluent release into Yamuna river, every one of them the product of human abuse and flawed state policy.

We are reminded that the culture of water harvesting has been sustained in India for several hundred years and how water was treated essential for human life and well-being and hence sacred, beyond reproach. The director takes the viewer into the lives of the families, whose homes and future were brutally razed to the ground owing to large scale irrigation and hydel power development (Tehri dam) and through interviews with the people as well as with eminent environmentalists, activists and town planners showcases their point of view. The director brings to light, the hollowness of the system through its much convincing commentary.

Stylistically, the film presents its point of view through a series of interviews and images that deliver a deluge of disturbing facts. In situ footage of Kartik Purnima Snan at Varanasi, and nicely shot running water images with Kumar Gandharva’s rendition of Sunta Hai Gurugyani in the background provides respite from the flood of facts.

The documentary is fascinating because of its subject – one that must be taken seriously. It ends by advocating decentralized community based water harvesting systems. Decentralised solutions, which are small scale, community managed and cater to the immediate locality obviate the need for transportation of water, and drastically reduce the footprint of a community. Furthemore there is little scope for large scale corruption. Thus, the film concludes, that we need a thousand 1000$ projects, and not a 1,000,000$ one! 

The documentary is a wake-up call for you to step up by supporting the movement to protect the rivers. Watch the video and learn more.



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