Mission Paani kicked off to a start on Wednesday with Union Ministers and celebrities coming together along with water warriors to take a pledge to save water.
Speaking at the inaugural session of the Mission Paani Waterthon held by Network18 and Harpic on Wednesday, Union Cabinet Minister in Ministry of Jal Shakti Gajendra Singh Shekhawat lauded the campaign and emphasized the need for all to take up the cause of water conservation.
Addressing the issue of water scarcity in various regions in India, Shekhawat said, "Prime Minister Modi has always propagated the idea of limiting the usage of water to its nearby areas of origin. Gaon ka paani gaon mein. Shehar ka paani shehar mein. Khet ka paani kheton me."
This, he said, would help ensure that there is fair distribution of water and people are not deprived of this crucial resource, Shekhawat said, flagging off the one-day Waterthon, a first-of-its-kind event to highlight the need for water conservation in India on the day of the 72nd Republic Day of India.
Minister of Health and Family Welfare Harsh Vardhan also appeared on a video conference and said, "It is our responsibility to save groundwater, it is also our responsibility to ensure clean drinking water," he says.
The health minister used the occasion to talk about the government's 'Water Technology Initiative' and says its aim is to make water available to for drinking and agrarian use across the country using technology.
The opening session saw the launch of the Mission Paani anthem to the beats of a classical dance performance by performers like Esha Deol and Mallika Sarabhai. Actor Akshay Kumar, who as the brand ambassador of Mission Paani, has also taken a water pledge (Jal Pratigya) to save water, launched the event with a moving speech.
Relating his own connection with water, Kumar said, "Water is my saviour". He recalled the time in the 90s, when he suffered a slip-disc after lifting The Undertaker. The injury left Kumar incapacitant to run. After a year of treatment, a doctor suggested hydro-therapy where Kumar was asked to run and exercise in water. Kumar got better and he continues to this date to work out in the water. Kumar went on to advocate using water bodies to exercise.
"We need to pledge to save water as there is nothing greater than water," Kumar said while launching the eight-hour Waterthon.
Mission Paani is an attempt to embed the values of better water conservation and hygiene in India's national conscience.
Responding to a question by Kumar, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan also gave three tips to three tips to stay healthy -
"Eat Right, incorporate physical activity in your routine - it could be running, yoga, gym. And maintain cleanliness at home, at your workplace and your surroundings. These small contributions will help you improve your health and also help us at the health ministry in keeping you safe," the health minister said.
The first session was also graced by famed music composer AR Rahman and lyricist Prasoon Joshi. Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar and Chief Executive of Reckitt Benckiser Laxman Narasimhan also lent a hand in pledging for water conservation.
The Oscar-winning music composer AR Rahman who composed the Mission Paani anthem said that the anthem was "one of the closest thing to his hearts". Rahman also said that he and Prasoon Joshi who wrote the song created the theme in just a couple of hours.
"This is a day of reflection and of strengthening the republic - and thus it is an important day to take the pledge of to save water," Laxman Narasimhan of Reckitt Benckiser said.
According to the latest data, 70% of India’s water supply is contaminated, 75% of households in India do not have drinking water on their premises and 84% rural homes in India do not have access to piped water. We are in dire need to save and conserve water.
The situation has been made even direr by the coronavirus pandemic which has necessitated the need for constant water availability.
"The Mahabharata said that the noblest of all deeds is to feed water to the thirst. That's just what I follow... I have taught my two daughters to save water from a young age as well," actor Esha Deol said at the event.
To inspire the nation into action, the marathon is set to feature notable personalities like Lt. Col. SG Dalvi, who has spearheaded a new movement to conserve rainwater and others like Amla Ruia, who works to combat water shortage across India. Also in attendance would be remarkable young activists, like Licipriya Kanjugam, one of the youngest climate activists in the world, and Naina Lal Kidwai, a banking veteran who now works to alleviate India’s water crisis.
To draw attention to the role of women in water consumption and its the impact of water shortage on women, actor Akshay Kumar who will be anchoring the day-long Mission Paani event has installed a treadmill in the studio and will be walking on it all the time he is not anchoring himself. The idea is that if women - some of whom have to cover distances of 20 km a day to fetch water - can walk that much every day, Kumar could do the same for one day to highlight the problems faced by women.
Mission Paani, an initiative by CNN News18 and Harpic India is leading a drive to save India’s precious water resources and make hygiene a way of life. You can contribute to the cause by taking a Jal Pratigya. Visit www.news18.com/mission-paani