Artist Aabid Surti has been offering free plumbing services in the suburbs of Mumbai for over a decade
It is ten o’clock Sunday morning in one of the northernmost districts of Bombay’s megalopolis, Mira Road. They ring the house bell: “Free plumbing service! Do you have leaks in a faucet?” Across the door is Aabid Surti, a painter, writer and illustrator of this Indian city, also founder of the Ong Drop Dead Foundation . His Sunday routine begins with volunteer Rajeshree Modi and plumber Kailash Kumar. Like every week, they will visit two buildings and about fifty homes to offer free plumbing services and ensure that no drop of water is lost in homes in this area.
“The water problem is related to my childhood,” says Surti. “When I was little, I lived in the street, my mother got up early and put in a long queue for at least an hour or two to get a bucket of water.I can not forget these days.” The idea of the NGO was born many years later, when he read in a report that explained that if every second is lost a drop of water, in a month thousand liters go to the drain. “This struck me a lot: it’s like someone throwing a thousand bottles of water through the sewers,” says the artist. “So I decided to create Drop Dead Foundation and started going from house to house to fix the faucets with a plumber. We dedicate only two hours a week: a time that each person can donate to promote the welfare of society.
The struggle for water is a very present problem in the daily life of the Indians. According to the local government, about 330 million people in the country do not have enough water due to drought . A number that is equivalent to almost half of the European population. Last summer, rains fell by 14 percent in India and by 40 percent in Maharashtra, where Aabid Surti lives and works. In this area, more than nine million peasants have been left without access or limited access to this resource. People who carry out large migrations to cities such as Bombay, Pune and Aurangabad, where living conditions are expected below the poverty line.
About 330 million people in the country do not have enough water due to drought
Today Aabid is visiting a farm, whose doors of the houses are decorated with references to the most diverse religious iconographies. Starting with the giant sticker of the elephant god Ganesh, passing through the eye of Allah until you reach the verses of the Bible. They are mainly women who answer Aabid and her two companions. Some families, those who have the day off from work, are still in pajamas with the girls and boys lying in bed, while others are enjoying their breakfast. Door after door, they encounter different reactions: some people do not open; While others look at them from the bars of the door or just look out of one side, leaving the lock on. Many say they do not have these problems and a few take advantage to teach small losses of water.
Once inside the houses, the issue is resolved in a few minutes, just the time of drop a few drops. Volunteer Rajashree and the Kailash plumber enter first on the floor, greet the family and head straight to the place of loss, which is usually a kitchen or bathroom faucet. “We make small arrangements, usually the replacement of the board, which is worth around a rupee (0.01 euro), a really low expense for the NGO.” Aabid is entertaining giving away books to the children and the family or taking chai, a typical Indian drink based on tea with milk and spices; Meanwhile, Rajashree distributes pamphlets with tips to help save water at home. Once the mission was completed,
“People here always talk about saving the Ganges River,” explains Surti. “I know that I can not do anything for this great stream of water but if each person starts saving the few drops that are within their reach, we can preserve a great river.” In fact, these small amounts have created a powerful current that has continued to flow for almost a decade. In total, a million liters of water only the first year. This is what Aabid is estimated to have saved from his Sunday work. “From February 2007 to February 2008 we visited 1,666 apartments, repairing 440 dripping faucets and saving 500,000 liters of water,” says Surti, who continues to explain how he has carried out the difficulties encountered along the way. “God is my fundraiser! Always,
76 million people are forced to buy water at high prices or drink it contaminated
The thirst of India
India is the country with the worst access to potable water in the world , followed by Papua New Guinea, Equatorial Guinea, Angola, Chad and Mozambique. According to the NGO Water Aid, 76 million of its inhabitants are forced to buy water at high prices or drink it contaminated, because it is sewage or with chemical spills. A problem that also has repercussions on the practices of personal hygiene, with low rates of washing of hands and low availability of toilets. More than eight million households have no toilets and only 14% of the population can use them; this causes India to be the country with the largest number of outdoor defecations , more than 50%. These excreta contaminate groundwater and cause diseases such as diarrhea and cholera.
“The future of the Third World War will be by water, and it is the fault of politicians and corporations who seek to profit from it.” Like what happened in India with Coca-Cola , which opened a production plant In Kerala and everything in the vicinity dried up.All his water resources were used by the multinational, “recalls Aabid explaining the protests carried out by the women of the town of Plachimada, south of Kerala State. Coca-Cola needs large quantities of water for its production: 2.7 liters of water to produce only one liter of product. The people who live in this town undertook protests that led to the closure of the factories of the multinational in this area in 2005 .
Gods also save water
Throughout Sunday Aabid has not even had a glass of water. Once finished his tour of the two estates, he returns to his home, a modest flat in Mira Road, like many others he has just visited. There he is surrounded by his books – he has published more than eighty throughout his career – his paintings, and prints of the comic that has made him famous in the country and whose protagonist is Badahur, the first Indian superhero. These images share space in their wall with those of the new campaign that has just released “Save Water >> Says God” , which involves characters like Jesus, Ganesh and the Prophet Muhammad. “If I say do not waste water, no one will listen to me. But if they say Jesus, Krisna and Shiva, yes,” he says while teaching a first poster that has hung in the 200 mosques of Mira Road,
Water care is always present in Aabid’s life, also in everyday gestures. “I decided to grow my beard because if not every day I would have had to spend a bucket of water to shave,” he says smiling. “I understand that I am doing a good job of raising awareness when friends come to visit me at home and open the tap slowly, very carefully, because every drop counts.”