AmrutDhara’s ‘Water Without Waste’ campaign confronts Pondi promenaders

AmrutDhara’s ‘Water Without Waste’ campaign aims at behaviour change in people while providing a sustainable alternative to bottled water.


If you were offered an empty one litre plastic bottle for Rs. 6 and asked to walk 200 meters to fill it with clean drinking water, would you choose this option over paying Rs. 20 for a filled one litre bottle of water on the spot? This question was one that the ‘Water Without Waste campaign was trying to answer in its recent awareness campaign to draw attention to the massive amount of waste produced from bottled drinking water. Human behaviour and consciousness-raising were at the heart of the campaign, which launched online on March 22 and culminated in a three-day interactive art installation along the Promenade in Pondicherry from March 29-31.

‘Water Without Waste’ was the latest campaign run by AmrutDhara, founded by Minhaj Ameen (Aurovilian), Akshay Roongta, and Sandeep Jaiswal, whose mission is to “bring behaviour change in people through awareness campaigns while providing a sustainable alternative to bottled water”.

The campaign launched on Facebook, where anyone could sign up to ‘Take a Pledge’ to carry their own bottle with them while travelling, and not purchase bottled water. Each day for one week, a lucky winner was randomly selected and a prize of a metallic water bottle was given.

At the end of that week, AmrutDhara volunteers took to the streets. Three art installations, conceived and designed by Saketh Singh and his team at Play Design Studio at Aurelec, were erected on the Beach Road in Pondicherry. The abstract pieces represented the negative impacts of bottled water on air and on water. Hovering around the installations, volunteers attracted passers-by with a simple question: “Do you remember the time when you could refill water at common taps?” Most nodded yes, of course. But today, the volunteers continued, it is more common, and often most necessary, to purchase bottled water. Volunteers then asked further questions before launching into the detriments of bottled water, highlighting the environmental consequences, the questionable quality of bottled water, and the unreasonable expense of water (see box below).

It was at this point that the volunteers offered people the choice of either purchasing bottled water or purchasing an empty bottle and then filling it filled with clean drinking water nearby. Most people seemed to choose the latter option.

Over the course of three days, the volunteer team interacted with dozens of passers-by, including school children, media people, hotel owners, and even the Lieutenant Governor of Pondicherry out on his evening walk. The response was overwhelmingly positive. One man from Pune took to the idea with passionate frustration. He and his wife and daughter were on a holiday in Pondicherry, and had no other option but to purchase bottled water. “In just the past three days,” he said, “we’ve purchased 30 bottles of water between us. It’s unacceptable.”

The team continually monitored the impact of the initiative. During the debrief at the end of the first day, they decided to promote higher quality water bottles that could be reused longer. People visiting the water stall on subsequent days could purchase their own, sturdy water bottle, and a sticker to put on it that declared, “I am a change agent!”

In the final debriefing, the team assessed that using street art, especially large-scale installations, to engage with people was extremely successful. Some of the most passionate engagements occurred during the installation process, which piqued curiosity. The repetition of three art installations along the promenade also helped, as people were continuously confronted with the issue. The team also learned several lessons from the campaign. For instance, communication should be simplified, and text reduced in favour of more graphics and photographs.

While the results to their questions have yet to be collated, Minhaj could already spot some trends in the overwhelmingly affirmative responses to the first three questions asked: Do you trust water coming from a large water container?; Are you aware of issues around plastic waste and bottled water?; Would you use a service that provides you with clean drinking water? “It’s a good sign,” says Minhaj, “because if people feel that they can trust water from a water service, then that trust is something we can build on.”

Despite a few setbacks (the installations took longer to construct than anticipated, and one of the installations vanished on the second night), AmrutDhara organizers are celebrating a successful campaign that worked toward their goal of awareness-building around the issue of bottled water. They hope to learn from this campaign and launch it in other cities throughout India.

This piece was first published in Auroville Today.

All photos courtesy Amrutdhara.


  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
An environmental writer and educator, Ing-Marie is deeply inspired toward personal and planetary sustainability, and all of the work she engages in reflects this inspiration. Originally from the USA, she has felt fortunate to call India "home" since 2005, and offers a unique, cross-cultural perspective on all things green. Committed to living the change, you can often catch Ing-Marie riding her cy... more

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  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
An environmental writer and educator, Ing-Marie is deeply inspired toward personal and planetary sustainability, and all of the work she engages in reflects this inspiration. Originally from the USA, she has felt fortunate to call India "home" since 2005, and offers a unique, cross-cultural perspective on all things green. Committed to living the change, you can often catch Ing-Marie riding her cy... more

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