For outstanding contributions in developing and improving civic amenities, serving to provide an exemplary model on sustainable ground water utilisation for the nation as a whole
In 1995, Belgaum city in Karnataka was faced with severe scarcity of water, with delayed rainfall, and with its main reservoir, the Rakaskop, running dry, the city had to find alternative sources of water and quickly. As Belgaum raced against time to solve the emergent crisis, RS Nayak, city engineer, took the lead and initiated the Open Wells project. The Open Wells programme was literally an invigoration of the city’s history, taking cognisance of how the landscape used to be dotted with open wells prior to the advent of piped water supply. The ingenious project, under the able stewardship of Nayak, took the form of a participative local initiative with long-term orientation.
His initiative and persuasiveness in involving the local community, social organisations like Rotary Clubs, Lions Clubs, NGOs, private entrepreneurs and donors rejuvenated several high-yielding open wells which supplied potable water to around one-third of the city’s population. The project was not only successful in that it helped Belgaum tide over the crisis, it also served to augment existing infrastructure. The National Institute of Hydrology has certified the sustainability of these wells for at least the next 50 years. An effective low-cost programme, the key ingredients of the Open Wells project was promoting and harnessing neighbourhood innovation and tapping into local resources.