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  Sri Sathya Sai Baba Water Project
'Valuing' Water

Source: Radio Sai E-Magazine, December 1, 2003

Water supply does not run dry when it is drawn from the well of human valuesNot 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!

Babas five Human ValuesBaba's 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.


 Water Education in AfricaThe 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.

Sri Sathya Sai Schoolome 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 interview.

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.

The Sweet Water StoryHistory 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 project.

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 our easier.

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.

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