Aabid Surti, a litterateur who won a national award for his collection of short stories Teesri Aankh in 1993, has changed the lives of Mumbai residents by raising awareness that "a tap that drips once a second wastes a thousand litres of water every month." Aabid has authored around 80 books but no story has moved him as much as the truth about water scarcity on the planet. With former UN chief Boutros Boutros Ghali's words echoing in his mind that by 2025 more than 40 countries are expected to experience water crisis, Surti set out to make a difference to the planet.
In 2007, the International Year of Water, 72-year-young Surti, along with a plumber, began fixing leaky taps in apartment units in Mumbai. He began by simply replacing old O-ring rubber gaskets with new ones, buying new fixtures from the wholesale market for 50 paise a piece.
His NGO is aptly named "Drop Dead." He used his experience as a celebrated painter to design posters and pamphlets with the tagline: "Save every drop… or drop dead." Every Sunday, the Drop Dead team (Aabid, Riyaaz (a plumber) and a female volunteer Tejal) would pick a building, get permission from the housing society, and get to work. A day before, Tejal would hand out pamphlets explaining their mission and paste posters in elevators and apartment lobbies spreading awareness on the looming water crisis. And finally, they would ensure the building was drip-dry.
By the end of the first year, he had visited 1,533 homes in Mira Road, fixed around 400 taps, and saved around 3.84 lakh (0.3m) litres of water.
With dwindling funds, Surti approached the local Mira-Bhayander Municipal Corporation asking them to set up a full-time office with a phone, a plumber and a bicycle so that if leakage starts somewhere, like fire brigade, a plumber would be available, but his request was turned down as was his request for funds. An award for life time achievement in Hindi literature from the State government and a cash prize of Rs. 50,000 helped him revive his work.
With Maharashtra expecting its worst drought in 40 years in the summer of 2013, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chauhan has warned citizens to begin conserving water. Surti simple yet effective approach if adopted by every citizen could help save water - the elixir of life.