Sri Sathya Sai Baba Water Project
Radio Sai E-Magazine,
December 1, 2003
so long ago, people in most parts of the world took water for
granted. That is no longer possible for two important reasons. The
first is the rapid increase in global population and the second is
the sharp reduction in the available fresh water resource, thanks
to extensive pollution, mismanagement and wastage. As a result, in
many places, matters have already reached crisis proportions. Thus
it is that in Bangladesh, a country that is supposed to have a lot
of water, people have to depend for drinking, upon ground water
that is heavily contaminated with arsenic. The time has come for
mankind to deal with water and indeed with all aspects related to
Creation not merely from a purely scientific point of view but
from a higher and nobler perspective. As Baba often reminds, man
is himself a product of the five elements that surround him. Hence,
as great ones realised, like the Buddha for example, external
pollution of the five elements starts with the pollution of the
five elements within. In other words, the starting point for the
cure must be a return to basic human values. Recognising the
importance of this approach, the Sai School in Zambia has launched,
with support from UN HABITAT, a very successful programme to
impart water education through human values. Impressed with the
success of this pilot programme, efforts are now under way to
expand the scope of this programme to the entire world [especially
the Third World], through the UN Millennium Task Force on Water
and Sanitation. Way back, a small seed was planted in Puttaparthi.
Today, the branches of the tree that grew out of that tiny seed
have spread to all corners of the globe!
five Human Values have now been accepted by the UN-HABITAT
programme on Water Education, as the above Logo shows. On the left
may be seen pictures of two books published under this programme.
TIMES OF ZAMBIA,
JANUARY 20, 2003
Human Values approach to water education in Africa lays great
emphasis on the values rooted in African culture, and trainees are
encouraged to bring out their cultural values.
The Human Values
approach emphasises Five universal core values as their basis.
These are: Truth, Love, Right Conduct, Peace and Non-violence,
which have numerous practical modes of expression.
time ago, Dr. Victor Kanu of Zambia, well known for his pioneering
work on Sai Education in Africa, recorded an interview with Radio
Sai. What follows is a digest of the remarks he made then,
concerning what he calls Water Education in Africa. Basically, it
is a programme to sensitise school children to the importance of
water for the survival of humanity, via a special approach based
on the five human values that Swami talks about so often. In a
later issue, we expect to reproduce the entire transcript of that
The United Nation's
Centre for Human Settlement known briefly as UN-HABITAT, has
initiated across many countries of Africa, a programme called
'Water Education'. Why such a programme on 'Water Education'?
There are many reasons for this. Firstly, one century ago the
population of Africa was only about 150 million whereas today it
is 875 million. According to an estimate, in about 20 or 25 years,
this figure would swell to 1.5 billion people. And all these 1.5
billion people in the African continent would be using the SAME
water resources, the same rivers and the same lakes, as did people
one hundred years ago. That should give an idea of the water
problem that Africa faces. Not only that; the water today is more
polluted than ever before.
reveals that countries sharing the same river basins and same
lakes are often at loggerheads; there are also conflicts. There
have been water riots, and there also have been water wars in
history. There could well be such wars in Africa also in the
future, and water usage is threatening to become a major issue for
peace and stability in the Continent.
In the view of the
crisis that is looming large on the horizon, it is necessary to
have a change of attitude, especially with regard to natural
resources endowed to us by God. Attitudinal change in this context
essentially means a change of Heart. In turn, this change of Heart
must lead to a proper management of available water resources,
based on traditional human values, which includes revering and
caring for Nature's gifts. Attitudinal change must lead to
solidarity, cooperation and tolerance, in the midst of scarcity.
It is by practising such values that the people of Africa would be
able to face water shortage in the future, without fighting and
without conflict. This is the essence of the water education
Prior to adopting
this novel approach, the UN tried many methods, mainly
technological. The UN concentrated on improving the supply of
water; the UN experts are good at that sort of thing. But this did
not remove the water problem because though the supply got better,
a lot of water was also getting wasted. There was a lot of
indiscipline and inefficiency. There is, for example, illegal
connections and tampering with meters. Then there are the rich who
use much more water than they used to before. For instance,
following increased supply, in Johannesburg, a rich family would
use about 200 litres of water a day for washing cars and watering
the garden, whereas in a neighbouring slum, an entire family would
get hardly 20 litres of water a day. This kind of problem is
especially acute in urban areas, where people have lost their
traditional values. The United Nations has finally realised that
blending human values with water education would help enormously.
It all started with
an expert group meeting in April 2001 in Johannesburg, to which
many experts from all over Africa were invited. Many papers were
presented, and among them was mine whose theme was
Water Education - A Human Values Approach.
They liked this so much that they unanimously adopted it as a
possible solution that would complement existing methods employed
by the UN. After that I was asked to present a similar paper to
the special session of the United Nations General Assembly in New
York on the 6th of June, which I did. This paper too was well
received. I was then asked to chair a sub-regional meeting of
African countries in Ndola, Zambia, and another one in West
Africa. After that, I was appointed by UN-HABITAT as a consultant,
for integrating human values in water education in the curriculum
of schools of Africa, starting with 6 countries - Ethiopia, Kenya,
Zambia, Ghana, Senegal and Ivory Coast.
My task was to
revamp the existing syllabi and blend them with water education
based on Swami's human values. This is being done all the way from
pre-school to primary and secondary school.
The human values
approach is really about transformation whereas the subject
content is about information. So we are going to blend information
and transformation to bring about the desired attitudinal changes
in the young, who would become the future utility managers and
future leaders. This, in brief, is the programme.
Human values are
integrated into the programme by starting first with the existing
syllabus and then blending it values. Let us take photo synthesis
or how plants transport water. Now the function of the roots is to
hold the plant firm and to give it a solid base while it searches
for water. The roots will go to great lengths in search of water.
If the root comes across a boulder it does not give up; it goes
round it - that is endurance, a sense of duty and persistence.
While teaching children about the function of roots, these values
must be brought out at the same time - persistence, endurance
strong sense of duty, cooperation etc. We also bring in
traditional values. According to our ancients, spirits were
supposed to live in water. Africans believe in the existence of
God and the deities. God pervades the entire Universe and that
same God is also in water. This is ancient African culture. But
that has been forgotten as a result of colonial rule. Baba says
education without culture is like a kite without a rope. It is
like a dark room that is infested with bats. So what we are trying
to do is to harmonise and bring out the positive values in our
cultures and traditions in Africa and harmonise those values with
the present trends in our school system. This is very well
received and that is why the UN HABITAT is so much interested in
this. People really want to go back to their roots, which makes
Currently we are in
the process of reviewing the syllabi. We will teach students to
Be water wise and water efficient.
Eventually we expect this programme to be adopted across the board
in Africa. Our approach is very cost effective. It does not
require elaborate materials and things like that.
Once we have dealt
with water, I believe we can tackle the rest of the environment,
besides social problems like early pregnancies, break down of
marriages, AIDS, etc. The human values approach will help solve
such problems also. In short, we are trying to make people realise
that they are human beings.