Five years ago, Sunny Jain, a resident of Tumakuru in Karanataka, was moved after seeing stray animals dehydrated during the summer. He started keeping cement bowls full of water near his home to help them out. Soon, others told him they wanted to do the same. And that’s how Water For Voiceless (WFV) came to be, with Sunny helping set up cement water bowls throughout Tumakuru.
It wasn’t long before WFV found its way to several cities, including Bengaluru, Coimbatore and Delhi. “In the last five years, we have distributed 12,000 bowls, the highest being 6,000 last year,” Sunny tells TNM. This time around, however, due to lack of resources, WFV is focusing on Bengaluru and Tumakuru.
Like WFV, organisations and individuals across south India have taken it upon themselves to ensure that stray animals and birds have it a little easier this punishing summer.
In Bengaluru, WFV has so far distributed 3,500 bowls so far across Indiranagar, Domlur, HSR Layout, Jayanagar and RR Nagar, to name a few, while 3,000 bowls have been distributed in Tumakuru. Bengaluru-based Praful Maun, who has been involved with the initiative for three years now, tells TNM that these cement bowls, which come in two sizes, use a particular formulation of cement so as to prevent algae growth in the water.
WFV bowls in place
“There are three rules that people must follow before they are given a pot – the pot must have fresh water, it should be kept at a safe place and it should be washed every day,” Praful says.
Similar projects are underway in Telangana, and Chennai, where Blue Cross is distributing hand-painted cement water bowls to people. “We have distributed 500 bowls already from our aim of 5,000,” Dawn Williams, General Manager of Blue Cross Chennai, tells TNM.
In Telangana, an initiative called Animals Water Bowl Project (AWBP) India was started by Lakshman Molletti. Originally from Visakhapatnam, the software engineer started the project in April 2017. However, unlike the above two initiatives, AWBP India is a year-round project. “It’s not about how hot or cold it is, it’s simply that like us, animals also need access to safe drinking water no matter what the season. The reason they do not have that is because we have encroached on their habitat and polluted their water sources,” Lakshman states.
For this reason, there are five rules that everyone who takes cement bowls from AWBP India must mandatorily follow. Apart from maintaining safety, cleanliness and regularity in monitoring and replenishing the water, one is also required to share photos and videos of the installed bowls on a regular basis on their WhatsApp or Facebook groups.
That being said, Lakshman admits that change is slow, and his goal of building a real connection between humans and urban animals, or at least compassion towards the beasts, will take time. However, in the brief time that the project has been active, it has earned international recognition and has been able to provide at least 1,000 animals with safe, round-the-clock drinking water. It is also operational in three districts of Maharashtra, apart from Medchal, Secunderabad and Ranga Reddy districts in Telangana.
Lack of support for bigger animals
In Kerala, TNM had spoken to 70-year-old Sreeman Narayanan, a resident of Muppathadam village in Ernakulam, who distributed 10,000 earthen pots to serve as birdbaths in the scorching heat (full story here). When it comes to bigger animals, however, NGO People for Animals tells TNM that the situation is not very welcoming. A senior member of the organisation told TNM that they are unable to provide water bowls on a larger scale because of people’s hostility towards stray animals, especially dogs.
“If the bowls are not made of cement, we have instances of them being destroyed. So we are in touch with trusted and individual feeders, mainly in Trivandrum and Ernakulam, who are installing some water bowls in their personal capacity,” she said.
This is a challenge that WFV is facing too. “We have gotten some cases of people returning their bowls because their neighbours or landlords did not approve. But they are smaller in number,” Praful says.
Bird box initiatives
While these bowls are available in different capacities and sizes for both birds and animals to use, another initiative in Bengaluru is looking to fulfil the needs of our feathered friends specifically. Ritika Goel, an animal rights activist based in the city, has been distributing bird boxes for birds to take refuge in the summer.
“It started after I saw something small and black on the road on the way to Mysuru. It was moving, but barely. It turned out to be a cuckoo. Doctors told me that during summer, due to the increase in heat, birds often get heat shock and just drop to the ground. In most cases, they die,” Ritika tells TNM. “They are often the first to be affected in the summer because they are aerial,” she adds.
A person who got a bird box and installed it near his residence
So, as part of her ongoing Bengaluru Opts to Adopt campaign, Ritika in collaboration with Gujarat-based Shree Karuna Foundation Trust Animal Helpline, began a drive to distribute 1,000 bird boxes made of thick cardboard across Bengaluru. They had three distribution drives in March where they were able to distribute 70% of the bird boxes, Ritika says. She plans to distribute the remaining in schools and colleges while also raising awareness.
“The idea is to co-exist with the urban wildlife that we have. There is so much to learn about them, we have had such interesting conversations with people during the distribution drives. For example, did you know that the bird boxes need to be camouflaged? Or that if there’s a nest in your garden, you need to leave the food and water in the direction opposite to it so as to not attract predators? Or that squirrels can steal birds’ eggs or that ants often prey on bird babies?” she questions.
“People are interested in helping out, but they often don’t know how. This is what we have tried to address in the interactions during distribution drives,” she reasons.
Once the installation of the bird box is complete, people are required to send them the location of the same. “This way, we have been able to map the distribution of the boxes,” Ritika explains.
Everyone mentioned above, except Blue Cross Chennai, have been distributing water bowls and bird boxes for free. Blue Cross is open open to taking voluntary donations, and sells its water bowls at Rs 99 per piece. While WFV is funded by a closed group of likeminded animal lovers, AWBP is completely crowd-funded. The latter have exhausted most of their funds and are seeking donations on Milaap. You can contribute here. To get water bowls from WFV, Praful can be contacted on +91 93433 01707.