Two animal lovers drawn by a common passion towards animals start a project to quench the thirst of hundreds of stray animals and birds in Bengaluru.

Features Saturday, March 28, 2015 - 05:30
Monalisa Das | The News Minute | March 25, 2015 | 01:00 pm IST Follow @Mona_Lisa_Das Ever wondered where birds and animals in cities drink water from? The stray dogs in your colony, squirrels jumping over the fence, birds perching on the light pole or cattle roaming on the street? They may turn to drains, puddles, or stagnant water to quench their thirst, but these can hardly be called clean sources of water. Often, they could simply have to make do without water for their parched throats. In an effort to mitigate their troubles, Sunil Om (30) and Sanjana Govindan (28) started The Water Bowl Project (WBP) in Bengaluru over two years ago. The duo was inspired by In Defense of Animals (IDA), an animal protection organisation which had first launched the project in Mumbai. With development activities reducing the availability of clean water sources in urban areas for animals, the WBP attempts to provide them with water through volunteers, especially during the blistering summer heat. “We are not an NGO, we are just volunteers,” Sunil, a software engineer in the city, tells The News Minute. Sunil and Sanjana buy bowls made of terracotta or cement from potters at subsidized rates, and those interested can purchase them for the same amount if they wish to provide water to the animals. “But we often distribute the bowls for free to those who are interested in the cause but may not be able to afford them,” says Sanjana, Head, Funding and Communication, AIFO India. The idea of the project however, is to make people think and create awareness by encouraging them to take up the initiative on their own. “They can use bowls made of any material they want to and don’t necessarily have to get it from us,” says Sunil. “Water is the lowest common denominator that binds all life on Earth,” says Sanjana, who hopes that the project can teach people to be more compassionate towards animals. “We all know how it feels to be thirsty on a scorching summer day,” she says. Sanjana's motivation for the project lies in her understanding of the relationship between the different creatures that inhabit the planet. “For me, it is a shared public place we are living in. The birds, the monkeys and several other animals were here much before we came into the picture and our development wiped out their homes,” she explains. ( Sunil Om and Sanjana Govindan ) Both Sunil and Sanjana reach out to animal lovers through friends and acquaintances. While Sunil organizes the project in Bengaluru North, Sanjana is in charge of Bengaluru South. Although the project is rooted in a fairly simple concept, volunteers are often confronted by a rather irksome problem: stolen water bowls. To tackle this, some of them have taken to cementing the bowls to the ground. And then there is also the skeptical lot. “Some question my motive behind working on the WBP, whereas some will ask why we don’t provide a proper transport facility to deliver the water bowls,” asserts Sunil. While returning from work, Sunil carries the bowls in the cab and drops them off with volunteers on his way home. He sometimes leaves them with his friends at central locations from where people can pick up the bowls. There is also a “downside” to the project, Sanjana feels. “The availability of water in a particular spot is likely to attract many animals. We have faced opposition from people who do not like animals gathering in their neighbourhood. But when people come to know that it is only to drink water that the animals are approaching the area, some do become more compassionate,” she says. An additional challenge to the project arises in form of a misconception. â€œPeople generally believe water needs to be provided only during the summer months,” says Sunil, “and it is only during those few months that they show an interest.” Monsoons do bring plenty of water, a lot of which is available to animals in form of dirty, stagnant water which can spread diseases in animals as well. By the time monsoons get over and winter approaches, as Sanjana puts it, it becomes a case of “out of sight is out of mind.” She also mentions how the cost of maintenance needs to be kept in mind while opting for the project. “Five litres of water is going to cost money after all,” she says. Ever since its launch in Bengaluru, over 1,000 water bowls have been sold or distributed. The project did catch up in the city initially, but mostly like a fad which soon died. Even now some bowls go waste, some are stolen, some break, but for the founders every bit of effort is worth it. A cement bowl costs Rs 100, whereas a terracotta one, which is biodegradable, costs Rs 200. When asked whether they make any profit, Sanjana laughs. “I wish I could,” she jokes. “The cost of the bowls in borne entirely by us and we do not generate any revenue through the project,” she says. “If ever I worry about my finances, I like to look at the bigger picture and how our work is benefiting many,” she adds. (All images source: The Water Bowl Project/Facebook ) Tweet Follow @thenewsminute

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