Professor Basant Maheshwari is one of our founding Expert Panel Members and has diligently worked with the team to certify over 300 products ever since. He was inspired to accept an invitation to join the panel believing the scheme to be a great new concept. He was eager to see a scheme that would provide fair assessments of products and services and, in turn, provide the public with assurance at a time of severe drought, especially since they were asking how they could save and maintain water.
There were lots of discussions and a lot of experimenting in those early months to determine what the program would assess and how. He says he is proud of how far the program has come and that as part of the panel he has been able to give innovations that were really simple and affordable, the opportunity to demonstrate their water saving qualities.
His passion for water and community engagement began early. As a boy in rural Rajasthan, Basant became vividly aware of water when the levels of wells in his village began to drop.
In rural communities, shortage of groundwater constrains food production, jeopardises farm incomes, catalyses increased urban migration and fractures community cohesion,’ he says. Knock-on effects include reduced productivity and lowered quality of life for women and girls who have to spend more time carrying water, to increased costs of drilling and pumping what water there is.
“Rajasthan is among the driest states”, explains Basant, “My father was a businessman and also had a farm. Electricity was coming. He was a forward thinker and he knew it was important for the village, so he got others to sign up.’ Power came and with it, better ways to access water, but digging ever-deeper wells – emptying aquifers – was not the answer.I asked why not divert rainwater from the bottom end of the field into an abandoned well? My father thought it was a good idea. From that time, I was most interested in better usage of water.”
After completing a Bachelor of Engineering at the University of Udaipur, followed by a Masters from Bangkok’s Asian Institute of Technology and a PhD in water management from Melbourne), Basant has worked around the water world and, now at Western, he is again focused on Rajasthan and neighbouring state, Gujarat.
Basant suggested that the success of his recent groundwater program in India has clear lessons for other programs, including water efficiency initiatives such as Smart Approved WaterMark. “If you empower people and engage with them, then they take ownership and they change things to work for them. If somebody from outside tells them what to do, that might work for a short while, but without that commitment it will fail.”
He explained that if the certification was simply about technology it would fail but instead the practical approach taken to how applications are assessed, how approval is given based on proof that extends to testimonials not just data, makes the label more relevant to today’s consumers.
Basant believes, the future of the SAWM program has great potential since its simple for everyday people to engage with, all ideas are welcomed and the panel is amazingly encouraging to potential licensees – really collaborative in how they help licensees measure and evidence the unique features of their products.
Basant explained that due to the panel members coming from such different backgrounds the scheme has become very wholistic. So much so, that he claims he has personally benefitted from learning a lot during his tenure in topics outside his usual focus of research and sustainability, such as plumbing and the water industry. Another reason why he maintains his position on the panel.
As a boy looking at a drying well in India in the 70’s, to a father of two grown, professional daughters living through Australia’s worst drought in the ‘00s, he maintains that we must remember that‘Water is not only life, it is a living thing. We must have respect for it.’
Being a part of the SAWM Expert Panel has enabled him to do that by bringing all aspects of his expertise together – from leading research and consulting to water management, environmental sustainability and water literacy.
And the program is the greater for it. Thank you Professor Basant Maheshwari for your loyal commitment and dedication to the program.