Every Sunday he sets aside writing & cartooning to fix Mumbai’s drippy taps – Aabid Surti, the water warrior
Every living thing on Earth needs water, but is there enough water for everyone? Although two-thirds of Earth’s surface is covered by the water, but out of that, only 0.3% is usable. We currently use more than half of the world’s supply of surface water and could be using as much as 70-90% by 2025. Water is an important resource to keep us alive, but this is exacerbated by the fact that water is the most misused resources; we waste about two-thirds of the water we use. This waste is mostly from leaks, overuse and inefficient water systems.
While most of us don’t think twice when we notice a dripping tap or a leaking pipe, Aabid Surti an 81-year-old National Award winning author, artist, cartoonist is literally trying to save every drop of water. Bothered by leaking taps at the houses of friends and relatives, Aabid Surti began knocking on neighbors’ doors, accompanied by a plumber and asking if they have leaking pipes or taps that needed to be fixed. Surti is the founder of the Drop Dead Foundation, a non government organization (NGO) that fixes leaks every Sunday morning.
I read an article that if one drop of water is wasted every second, 1,000 liters go down the drain every month. An image of 1,000 bottles of 1-liter Bisleri bottles flashed before my eyes.
As a child growing up in a chawl (small tenements), Aabid Surti had witnessed the hardships of his mother. His mother had to stand in a queue early in the morning and often fight for her rights to get a bucket of water. This left in Surti an abiding respect for the value of the precious commodity, water, and his memory of shortages kept haunting him whenever he saw a leaking tap or overflowing tank.
One day while he was visiting his friend, he saw a leaking tap, which disturbed him a lot. He discovered that many people were wasting literally tons of water each day by not correcting leaking taps in their homes because of expensive plumbing service costs. So he decided to donate part of his time to help everyone fix this problem and save water. He began by simply replacing old O-ring rubber gaskets with new ones, buying new fixtures from the wholesale market. He named his one-man NGO ‘Drop Dead’ and created a tagline: ‘save every drop…or drop dead.’
I hired a plumber and approached people living in different housing societies to let me inspect their taps. I offered to fix the taps for free. Initially, people were skeptical because they have never encountered a stranger promising to fix their taps and that too free of cost. Later, as word spread, I was welcomed to most homes.
Aabid Surti’s mission has attracted the attention of not just local but also international media. A crew from Germany, accompanied him to homes and shot footage of the taps being repaired. Later, this was aired across Europe in a documentary called ‘Wasserknappheit in Bombay: Kampf um den letzten Tropfen’ (Water shortage in Bombay: Struggle for the Last Drop).
In 2010, Aabid Surti was nominated for the CNN-IBN CJ ‘Be The Change’ Award. In the same year, a television crew from Berlin flew down to follow him on his Sunday rounds which continued to come monsoon or shine. He has been featured in Hindustan Unilever’s ‘Do Gooders’ campaign for people who inspire goodness, where he shared his three quick steps to save water. Aabid Surti was also awarded the Sparrow award for water conservation in 2013. In the same year the Drop Dead Foundation was invited to represent India at the 10th World Plumbing Conference.
I want each citizen to realize his or her civic responsibility to save water. It is the duty of every citizen to save water.
A dripping tap can waste more than 2,000 liters a month – more than 24,000 litters a year. It’s hard to say how much water Aabid Surti has saved with his mission, but conservatively, it could be estimated that he has single handedly saved at least 5.5m liters of water till date. So Aabid Surti’s Sunday efforts do end up saving a large volume of water and if many more people follow in his footsteps, perhaps our cities won’t have to suffer perennial water shortages. Aabid Surti has begun to inspire children to follow his example and multiply the effect of saving our world.
While most people understand and recognize the importance of saving water, everyone doesn’t actually know how or what exactly they can do. Water warrior Aabid Surti’s noble task of saving every drop of water highly inspires us to join this growing community of people who truly care about water, our planet’s most precious resource. Lets start saving each and every drop of water, let our motto be ‘Save water, save life, save the world’.
*Donations made to Drop Dead Foundation is eligible for the benefits of 80-G of income tax act 1961