Water and the Missile Man

What did the late president Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam's think about water conservation, interlinking of rivers and the future of a world without water? Read on.
The late APJ Abdul Kalam at the International Book Fair, Trivandrum, 2014 The late APJ Abdul Kalam at the International Book Fair, Trivandrum, 2014

Dr. Kalam is no more but he lives on in the hearts of many through his quotes, beliefs, speeches and his acclaimed book India 2020: A Vision for the New Millenium among many others. 

Though referred to as 'Missile Man' due to his interest in and engagement with the defense sector, Kalam, especially post his presidential stint, engaged with the public on a range of subjects. In the context of water, those who have followed him over the years through media channels will remember his opinion on the river interlinking project. 

He was an unequivocal supporter of the idea and stated so on many occasions, most notably at his Independence Day Speech in 2002. Later in December 2010, he said, “Good water management is needed to control floodwater and channel it for use during non-monsoon period and in drought-prone areas”. He believed that interlinking rivers would help in this endeavour. With the government giving the go-ahead to this project, the debate is still on about the validity and the sensibility of the idea but even today, popular opinion holds Kalam's speech as the reason for the idea's revival. 

Kalam understood the importance of water to our future and did not hesitate to call out large corporations involved in the 'water industry'. In his many engagements with children, he stressed that they be mindful of the possibility of a water crisis in the future especially among neighbouring countries in Southeast Asia. In 2011, he called for a “special initiative to provide safe drinking water for all”, and that it should be undertaken as a societal mission.

An Environment Oath published on his website (which is now not operational) presents tree planting, cleanliness, waste management & recycling, and water conservation by implementing rainwater harvesting as a holistic approach to saving the environment. It sums up his belief that exclusivity of disciplines will not result in a workable solution.

Caricatures have shown him flying off on a missile armed with a Veena and some books – all things that he loved – but it doesn't seem enough for someone who has touched so many lives. Rest in peace, Dr. Kalam -- missile man, people's president and so much more.


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