Council on Energy, Environment and Water Integrated | International | Independent

Water Management Programme: Tarun Bharat Sangh

Framework for India’s Sustainable Agriculture Initiatives

Role of Tarun Bharat Sangh in Water Conservation

Organisation of the case study

This case study is a complementary document for the scalability framework. It provides a detailed account of how certain programmes scaled up and sustained themselves in the long run. The anecdotal evidence of the success factors here form the basis of the scalability framework.

Detailed here is an overview of each phase’s activities and success factors. We have identified four phases for the programme and each consecutive phase depicts either a shift or expansion in solutions, involvement of different stakeholders, and a variation in scale. The success factor headings come directly from the scalability framework. Please refer to the framework for theoretical clarity on terminologies.

Core success factors

The core success factors that enable scale, replication, and sustenance are as follows:

About Tarun Bharat Sangh

From 1985, Tarun Bharat Sangh (TBS), a Rajasthanbased Non-Government-Organisation (NGO), has worked towards water conservation by reviving rivers, building rainwater harvesting structures, protecting water commons, and advocating against illegal mining. TBS claims to have constructed 13,800 functioning Rainwater Harvesting Systems (RHS) and rejuvenated 13 rivers across the country. They started from the village of Gopalpura in Rajasthan’s Alwar region and now are active across Alwar and Mewat regions in Rajasthan and Haryana, respectively. In their initial years, they implemented water conservation solutions focusing on the revival of community traditions and knowledge. After their success in Gopalpura and its neighbouring villages, TBS broadened their ambit to ground-level and legal advocacy against illegal mining in the Aravali range and for the rights of forest-dwelling communities, and to national-wide campaigns to protect India’s major rivers. In this case study, we found the programme succeeded solely on the basis of strong community ownership and the establishment of selfgoverning institutions at the village level. Additionally, in 2001, TBS initiated the formation of a national network of water conservationists—the Rashtriya Jal Biradari—across different Indian states and, from 2022, an international collective called the People’s World Commission on Drought and Flood. The banning of mining in the Aravali range by the Supreme Court and the designation of Ganga as a national river by the Government of India have fostered enhancement of livelihoods of the local communities.

Johad Water Harvesting & Conservation

Phase 1: Experimenting with solutions for water conservation

In this phase, the TBS staff focused on learning the actual needs of communities in the Alwar region, as well as the land’s ecology. The region of Alwar used to be historically water rich till at least the early 20th century. Community traditions of water conservation were prevalent in the form of rainwater harvesting using structures called johads. But by the 1980s, the region started experiencing water scarcity and the Aravali mountain range was suffering deforestation and its consequences—soil erosion, run-off, and a depleted groundwater table. Parts of the region were declared as ‘dark zones’ by the state government’s irrigation department (Down to Earth 1999). The land soon became unfit for agriculture or rearing livestock, which forced most able-bodied men to migrate to cities for work, leaving women and the elderly behind. The TBS team experimented with reviving old, broken down RHS and built the programme’s first johad in 1985. When it retained water and enabled a few village wells to fill up, Dr Rajendra Singh (founder of TBS and also hailed as the ‘waterman of India’) and a few villagers built a second one in 1986. Johad soon filled all the village wells and helped the land to turn fertile. By 1987, the community members were convinced of the benefits of this solution and called the young men who had migrated out back to the village to start farming again. The community members also showed these benefits to neighbouring villages where they had relatives. By 1988, the programme was extended by building 24 more Rainwater Harvesting Systems in Gopalpura and seven neighbouring villages.

Timeline: 1985–1988

Scale: 24 RWH systems in the villages of Gopalpura, Mandalwas, Hamirpur, Bheekampura, Jaitpur, Raipura Bhaad, Kishori and Sili Baori in Rajasthan

Key Drivers: TBS

Key activities

Programme design : sustained leadership of the driving organisation and ensuring sync between solution and the enabling environment

  • Adapting to local needs: The TBS team chose to stay in the Alwar village of Gopalpura to thoroughly understand the region’s needs. They prioritised addressing the problem of water scarcity before proceeding with their plans to educate the village children. An elderly community member informed the team about the region’s traditional RHS called johad, which the community—lacking resources, support, and external validation for years—had lost confidence in implementing. The team constructed their first johad in 1985, named the chabootre wala johad, to prove to the community that their old solution still worked. When the johad successfully retained water and enabled the growth of bajra crop for some community members, the team built another one—mewalon ka baandh—in 1986. The two johads facilitated the return of water to village wells, contributed to recharging the groundwater table, and restored soil fertility to farmland.

  • Creating village-level leadership: In 1987, TBS decided to undertake three padyatras (campaign walks) annually with community members to spread awareness about their water conservation work. These campaigns were spearheaded by community members from Gopalpura, who decided the names of these yatras, which villages to walk to, and how to engage other communities. In 1987, they undertook the first campaign called gram swavalamban or gram swaraj yatra (village self-help or self-rule) to encourage communities to produce agricultural input goods (seeds, fertilisers, and others) among themselves instead of buying from outside the villages. In 1988, they undertook two more yatras—the ped lagao ped bachao yatra (plant trees, save trees) and the jal bachao johad banao yatra (save water through RHS).

  • Additionally, in 1987, the Gopalpura community members decided to form a gram sabha (village council) to encourage community ownership of water conservation and enabled its replication in the neighbouring seven villages. This sabha was separate from the constitutional gram panchayat and was supported by TBS leadership.

Community-level engagement

  • Ensuring self-governance: TBS leveraged on an age-old village-wide celebration called jal utsav (water festival), held in 1987 after successfully creating the johad, as the launch pad for creating community ownership. At the utsav, community members decided to create their village-level gram sabha to foster a sense of community responsibility and enable their relations in neighbouring villages to take up this work. They asked TBS for support. These initiatives , inspired by the Gandhian roots of the gram sabha, helped members to fulfil their aims, and replicated the model in the neighbouring villages.

  • Creating community champions: TBS witnessed how Gopalpura community members leveraged their relations in the neighbouring villages. So the driving organisation decided to build on this peer-to-peer model of spreading awareness by launching the three annual padyatras. The names and routes of each yatra were decided by community members, as they became primary stakeholders in this yatra and its activities. They handled the outreach and engagement with other village communities and usually were accompanied by only one full-time staffer from TBS.

  • Encouraging women’s participation: TBS needed to persuade some of the younger members, who had returned from cities, to refrain from growing sugarcane, as the water-intensive crop could rapidly deplete the newly revitalised farmland. To accomplish the programme objectives, Dr Singh proactively engaged the newly married women in the village, enlisting their active participation and involvement. In order to persuade the men, the women had to tell them that they would leave the house if they did not stop sugarcane cultivation. Due to water scarcity in the past, nobody would arrange marriages between their daughters and men from Gopalpura. However, following the availability of water thanks to johad, these avoided marriages became possible and were successfully arranged. Thus the wives held sway in the village, and TBS could tap into this social phenomenon to safeguard water resources.

  • Trust and skill building: TBS started recruiting people to build RHS from the villages themselves. They relied on traditional knowledge of how these structures worked to create new systems and repair the non-functioning ones. None of the team ‘engineers’ were formally trained, yet all the johads that TBS built are functional till date. Villagers also started trusting TBS as they witnessed how previously dry wells and rivers started retaining water. As groundwater levels rose, so did soil fertility, crop yields, and the ability to maintain livestock. By 1988, all the younger community members had returned from cities, as the programme had built a value proposition for the community. By 1988, the stakeholders had built 24 johads in Gopalpura and the neighbouring villages.


  • Flexibility in funds:: The programme was funded by Dr Singh and the TBS team utilising the financial resources provided by TBS. With the increasing sense of ownership among community members, they actively participated in the programme by contributing their labour and providing materials as needed.

Success factors

Programme design: sustained leadership of the driving organisation and ensuring sync between solution and the enabling environment

  • Sustained value proposition for the leadership: TBS continuously identified and acted on opportunities to create a strong network of community-level leadership engaged in water conservation, thus building a value proposition for the members.

Sync between the solution and the enabling environment

  • Adapt the core solution: : TBS applied a systems approach to learn about the actual needs and concerns of the Alwar region from the community members and adapted their programme’s mission and vision to address them.

Institutionalisation at community level

  • Create and maintain self-governing institutions: TBS encouraged and replicated the communitycreated gram sabhas as the primary decisionmaking bodies for all water conservation work in various villages.

  • Enable community ownership: TBS also encouraged the village-level stakeholders to lead the three annual padyatras, which spread their vision of water conservation and of village self-rule and self-help.

Financial sustainability

  • Bring funding from diverse sources: In this phase, TBS minimised expenditure by building the pilot johads themselves and depended on donations to the organisation. Soon, the community members also started contributing in terms of labour and material.

Phase 2: Scaling up advocacy in conservationaligned issues: grassroots and legal advocacy and establishment of the River Arvari Parliament

This phase saw scaling of the programme in three key ways. The first was TBS’s legal and grassroots advocacy against mining in the Aravali range. It resulted in their padyatra model going mainstream, engaging thousands of community members in the 800-km long Aravali bachao padyatra (Save the Aravalis March), and the Supreme Court cancelled mining contracts awarded in the Aravali range in 1992 aimed at safeguarding and conserving the Aravali mountains. TBS’s advocacy for banning mining in Aravali became crucial as the mines would restrict building or restoring of RHS in many villages in the Alwar region to retain water, hindering the community’s needs and the programme’s growth.

The second was the creation of a radical new way of self-governance, the River Arvari Sansad or Parliament. The programme activities revived five river systems in the region; a crucial one among them was the river Arvari. In the 18th century, Arvari had been the main groundwater recharge stream for all villages on its bank. Yet, when the programme was initiated in Alwar, the community only knew it as a dead river (Down to Earth 1999). Due to successive johads built along its watershed area, the river started flowing more with each successive monsoon. It became perennial in 1995. To safeguard the river from government-contracted commercial fishing that can lead to overexploitation of marine resources, ecosystem degradation, and the displacement of local and indigenous communities, the driving organisation (TBS) enabled the community to form the River Arvari Parliament comprising members from the gram sabhas of 72 villages along the river. This self-governing organisation, not a constitutional body, asserted the people’s rights over water and land overruling those of government-contracted fishing companies. The parliament formulated rules to protect the river, its banks and catchment area, and ensure equitable and sustainable use of community resources.

The third was the government’s recognition of the community’s water conservation work. The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) (now Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change) issued a notification in 1992, banning mining activities in certain parts of the Aravali range. On 28 March 2000, the twin villages of Bhaonta–Koylala, which had spearheaded Arvari’s revival, were awarded the first Down to Earth Joseph C. John award for an environment community by the then President of India, K.R. Narayanan. Meanwhile, the key core solution of building and reviving RHS in Alwar continued and replicated itself across communities.

Timeline: 1989–1999

Scale: The River Arvari Parliament, 800-km padyatra across Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, and Delhi

Key Drivers: Tarun Bharat Sangh

Key activities

Programme design

  • Advocacy at the national level: In 1989, the programme drivers and the community-level stakeholders discussed the impact of mining in the Aravalis on RHS in certain villages, especially near Sariska, where the johads did not work. Dr Singh had realised the villages’ underground aquifers had developed open cracks without overlying barriers known as horizontal fractures due to mining, and the community urgently needed a solution. These cracks allow for faster water infiltration and potential contamination, leading to aquifer depletion and land subsidence. Mining affected not only the Aravali hills but also the Sariska National Park. In 1990, TBS approached the Supreme Court demanding closure of these mines affecting the Sariska National Park. In 1991, the Supreme Court ordered stoppage of mining activity in the area. In 1992, the union Ministry of Environment and Forests issued a notification banning mining in certain areas of the Aravalis. It led to the closure of 478 mines affecting Sariska and built a value proposition for the programme leadership.

  • Advocacy at the grassroots level:To put pressure on the state governments to comply with the Supreme Court order, the driving organisation and community-level stakeholders decided on an 800-km march to save the Aravalis across the four affected states. On 2 October 1993, Dr Singh started the march from Himmatnagar, Gujarat (where the Aravali range starts) to Delhi, via Rajasthan and Haryana, which lasted over a period of four months. The combination of these forms of advocacy led to a closure of 28,000 mines by 1996.

  • Strengthening community-level leadership networks: When the state government handed fishing contracts to external parties in November 1996, for the revived Arvari river, TBS strategically engaged the community-level stakeholders from the 72 villages along the river to form their own body opposing the exploitation of community resources. The Aravali Jal Sansad (River Arvari Parliament), formed in 1998 with over 140 members, advocated against these government contracts by filing a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court, leading to their cancellation.

Community-level engagement

  • Building on village-level leadership: TBS further replicated the gram sabha model across the region, making it the first step for engaging with newer village-level communities. The programme implementors ensured the sabha comprised a member from each village family to fairly represent their actual needs. The gram sabha further created five sub-committees that built the community’s and programme’s capacity with TBS through research on the nature of the RHS needed, capital, labour, and materials the community could contribute towards construction, and the sharing of common resources. By 1999, the community had revived five more rivers—Ruparel, Sabi, BhaganiTildah, Jahajwali, and Maheshwari—through the construction of johads.

  • Driving community ownership: The River Arvari Parliament was formed with representatives from the gram sabhas of 72 villages. Though not a constitutional body, it became the face of the community while driving their ownership and responsibility for taking care of water and land resources of the Arvari. After consultations with all the members, it formulates rules for promoting sustainable crop patterns, fishing and cattle grazing, prohibition of the usage of borewells, and cultivation of water-intensive crops such as sugarcane.

  • Driving community ownership: From 1989 onwards, TBS ensured all three of their original padyatras (formulated in the first phase) were conducted annually. They were led by communitylevel stakeholders, who decided the route of these yatras and how to engage newer community members. The drivers consciously kept these yatras small—around 10 community members and one TBS staffer—so as to not stretch the limited means of the villages hosting them. The yatra would visit 100 odd villages in its early years. The driving organisation found that deep bonds were formed between multiple communities because of these yatras.

Government-level engagement

  • Government support: The MoEF responded to the programme advocacy against mining in the Aravalis, and the Supreme Court’s order to cancel mining contracts awarded to companies. On 7 May 1992, the Ministry issued a unique notification banning mining activities and extending protection to the mountain range and the Sariska National Park and thus the affected communities.


  • Diverse sources of funding: As the programme scaled up and the village communities prospered, TBS established the minimum fixed amount a village had to contribute—in labour, materials, and cash—towards construction and maintenance of the johads. The contribution by the community was gradually raised up to 33 per cent as the community realised its returns over the years. TBS secured funds from international partners, prominently the Embassy of Sweden through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA). SIDA aligned with the programme goals of water conservation and strengthening community ownership and initiated support for TBS activities in 1994–95, for a period of 13 years. In 1997–98, SIDA contributed 9 per cent of TBS’s funding needs (Kumar and Kandpal 2003).

Success factors

Sustained leadership in the driving organisation

  • Sustained value proposition for the leadership: The programme and community-level stakeholders successfully advocated against destructive mining in the Aravali range. The Supreme Court’s order in 1992 against mining and MoEF’s notification on 7 May 1992, banning mining activities, built a value proposition for the leadership, allowing key programme activities to continue and scale up.

Sync between the solution and the enabling environment

  • Bring suitable change to the enabling environment: The four-month-long grassroots campaign, Aravali Bachao Yatra, ensured largescale community support to ensure that the states of Delhi, Rajasthan, Haryana, and Gujarat complied with the Supreme Court and the MoEF’s orders banning mining. It created an enabling environment for the programme to scale up enough to continue its core solution and advocate against mining till 1996.

Institutionalisation at community level

  • Enable community ownership: Community-level stakeholders continued leading the three annual padyatras, spreading the programme’s reach across Alwar and beyond. As more community members aligned with the programme, they could support Dr Singh’s four-month march across multiple states, ensuring its success beyond the state-level programmatic activities.

  • Create and maintain self-governing institutions:The community members, with support from the programme drivers, implemented the gram sabha model from phase one. They ensured community participation, fair use, and allocation of resources, while also building resilience into the programme. The model achieved scale when 72 gram sabhas along the river Arvari formed their own governance body, the River Arvari Parliament, to assert community rights over land and water resources.

Institutionalisation at government level

  • Enable pathways for government support: The programme could capitalise on government support to scale up when the Ministry of Environment and Forests issued a notification banning mining in certain areas of the Aravali range.

Financial sustainability

  • Ensure flexibility in funding: TBS formalised the minimum contributions the programme needed from village-level communities, starting with a 25 per cent contribution in 1987, increasing it to 33 per cent by 1997. The drivers also successfully engaged SIDA to support their work for 13 years.

Phase 3: National collaboration and international recognition

Timeline: 2000–2009

Scale: Alwar and Mewat for water conservation, pan-India collective formation, and Ganga designated as a national river

Key Drivers: TBS

Key activities

Programme design

  • Scaling water conservation to the national level: By 2001–02, TBS was advocating for water conservation, and for land and forest rights of tribal communities, at a national scale. The driving organisation felt the need to respond to the 2002 National Water Policy, which they felt would enhance privatised control of water resources in India. The driving organisation undertook a 14-month nationwide march for water, the Rashtriya Jal Chetna Yatra (National Water Awareness Campaign), across 320 districts in 30 states of India. It aimed to spread awareness about water conservation, collaborate with invested civil society, and initiate dialogues with governments across states. The campaign tackled the community needs of degrading water sources, shortage of potable and irrigation water, and conflict over natural resources. It also incorporated learnings from other successful experiments on water conservation in the country.

  • Creating national-level partnerships:The campaign led to the formation of Rashtriya Jal Biradari (RJB) or the National Water Community, a national forum. This forum functioned for nearly 10 years advocating through public meetings, identifying problems of the riparian communities, sensitising ministers and officials working at various levels of governance, and, where needed, filing public interest litigations for the protection of the environment and rivers.

  • Capitalising on international recognition: In 2001, Dr Singh was honoured with the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award for his exceptional community leadership in recognition of his significant contributions in the field of communitybased water conservation and traditional RHS. Through his dedicated efforts, the programme was able to establish a strong value proposition by effectively addressing water scarcity issues and creating sustainable water management practices within the community

  • Scaling up grassroot-level advocacy: Under the leadership of the TBS vice chairman, Professor G.D. Agarwal (an environmentalist and former Dean of IIT Kanpur), the driving organisation heavily engaged in advocating for the river Ganga. Professor Agarwal launched a series of fasts as part of the Save the Ganga Campaign to protect the river and its tributaries against pollution, starting from 2008. The first was to stop the damming of one of Ganga’s headstreams, river Bhagirathi. These fasts drew national attention and support even from opposition politicians.

Community engagement

  • Creating SHGs: TBS encouraged the participation of women in decision-making in the gram sabha and to also form women-led self-help groups to further their livelihood opportunities. By 2001–02, TBS had helped establish 325 SHGs in 180 villages in the Alwar and Mewat regions. These women were also trained in traditional plant-based medicine.

  • Empowering youth: TBS was educating children and youth from Alwar and Mewat through the River Arvari Child Parliament and the Tarun Jal Vidyapeeth. The vidyapeeth initiated a two-year course to create and skill ‘water warriors’ from local communities in conservation-related issues and a series of short-term courses to build the capacity of other stakeholders, such as village institutions, civil society, NGOs, scientists, and even bureaucrats.

Government engagement

  • Government recognition: The twin villages of Bhaonta–Koylala, whose efforts were crucial in reviving Arvari, were awarded the first Down to Earth Joseph C. John award for the most outstanding environmental community by the then President of India on the 28 March 2000, in a ceremony attended by the then Rajasthan governor Anshuman Singh and Rajasthan’s chief minister Ashok Gehlot. In 2003, the then crown prince of the United Kingdom, Prince Charles, visited another Arvari village, Hamirpura, bringing international visibility to their community-driven conservation work and struggle to protect their national resources.

  • Government support: In February 2009, Professor Agarwal’s campaign for Ganga became one of the reasons why the Government of India designated Ganga as a national river and notified the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGBRA) as its empowered planning, financing, monitoring, and coordinating authority to strengthen the collective efforts of the central and state governments in effectively reducing pollution and conserving river Ganga under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.


  • Diverse sources of funding: TBS continued its model of village contribution. It continued to receive funding from SIDA, which contributed INR 116 million from 2002 to 2009. The Embassy of Sweden contributed 16.46 MSEK (about INR 116 million) as core funding through 2002–2009. During the strategy period (2009–2013), the Embassy of Sweden was supporting TBS with 4.5 MSEK (about INR 29 million). In the next phase,TBS was able to mobilise little direct support other than from the Embassy of Sweden.

Success factors

Sustained leadership in the driving organisation

  • Sustained value proposition for the leadership: TBS saw value in scaling up water conservation advocacy to a national level by engaging with communities and civil societies from across India through the Rashtriya Jal Chetna Yatra and the Rashtriya Jal Biradari

Sync between the solution and the enabling environment

  • Bring suitable change to the enabling environment: The driving organisation scaled up its advocacy to save rivers through Professor Agarwal’s campaigns. It drew significant support nationally and politically for the central government to stop the damming of the Bhagirathi river (one of the two headstreams of the Ganges) and subsequently declaring Ganga a national river

Institutionalisation at community level

  • Create and maintain self-governing institutions:The driving organisation continued the model of self-governing institutions, which then enabled women’s participation, empowerment, and upskilling in the programme though women-led SHGs.

Institutionalisation at government level

  • Enable pathways for government support: The Joseph C. John Award to the villages of Bhaonta– Koylala signalled a certain amount of government recognition of the community-driven model of water and land conservation. Subsequently, the driving organisation’s scaled up efforts to conserve rivers influenced the government to declare Ganga a national river and notifying the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) in February 2009.

Financial sustainability

  • Ensure flexibility in funding: TBS continued its model of community contribution and benefitted from increased funding from SIDA, as the donors continued to be aligned with their vision of replicating traditional RHS across Rajasthan.

Phase 4: Scaling up national and international collaborations

TBS continued the Alwar model to work with more communities across Rajasthan and also support similar programmes in other states. While they replicated their core solution of building traditional RHS and advocating for land and water rights, they also expanded their focus to strengthening national and international collaborations. Dr Singh’s work continued to draw international attention and appreciation that lent value to the programme. In 2015, he won the Stockholm Water Prize, given for extraordinary water-related achievements, for his community-based efforts in water conservation, earning him a cash award of USD 150,000. The driving organisation also adapted its key activities to climate change’s impact on community needs and encouraged self-governance among other communities living in proximity to rivers. Simultaneously, through Professor Agarwal’s advocacy, the programme kept its focus on conserving Ganga and ensuring the functioning of the NGRBA.

Timeline: 2010 to present

Scale: 13,800 rainwater harvesting structures and 13 revived rivers across India

Key Drivers: TBS

Key activities

Programme design

  • Scaling and maintaining the march for awareness model: : In 2013, the drivers initiated another national-level march, called the Jal Jan Jodo Andolan (Connect Water to People Campaign) to ensure national-level water security. Across 22 states, the campaign brought together civil society, concerned citizens, journalists, and even sympathetic government officials (in an unofficial capacity) to initiate dialogues towards water conservation. The campaign placed special focus on community members from minority groups, such as Dalits, tribals, and women members. It aimed to spread awareness of people’s rights over jal (water), jungle, and jameen (land) through walks in the 22 states. Subsequently, the programme launched a series of such walks, such as the Virasat Swaraj Yatra in 2021 to identify India’s heritage rivers and the Khoj Yatra in 2022 to address community needs stemming from droughts and floods.

  • Capitalising on international recognition:The programme continued to drive value from the international recognition of Dr Singh’s efforts. In 2015, he won the Stockholm Water Prize, which included a cash award of USD 150,000, allowing the programme to maintain the national-level scale it had achieved.

  • Building international collaborations:Rashtriya Jal Biradari, a network comprising over 1,000 members, has taken steps to establish international collaborations. This network’s primary objective is to mobilise and coordinate rural communities in India, with the aim of fostering collaboration and collective efforts to address water-related challenges. Over time, this network has evolved into regional councils such as the Indian Himalayan River Basin Council and the Indian Peninsular River Basin Council. These councils were specifically established to work within their respective regions and tackle issues such as encroachment on rivers, aiming to safeguard these vital water bodies.

Community-level engagement

  • Empowering multiple communities across Rajasthan: The programme drivers continued to concentrate their programme activities in Alwar and other state districts, focusing on extremely marginalised communities. They currently support Scheduled Tribes (ST) and Scheduled Caste (SC) communities in Rajasthan’s Karauli district, one of the 100 most backward districts in the country, according to the erstwhile Planning Commission. The programme builds the capacity of these communities to implement sustainable water management solutions in the face of scarce natural resources.

  • Promoting self-governance: Encouraged by the River Arvari Parliament, the programme drivers encourage communities in Rajasthan living along the rivers Chambal, Kota, and Dholpur to form similar such governance structures.

Financial stability

  • Diverse sources of funding: TBS received support from SIDA till 2013, which donated INR 29 million from 2009 to 2013. It benefitted from the USD 150,000 cash award to Dr Singh’s as part of Stockholm Water Prize. Additionally, from 2015, the programme was able to tap into corporate social responsibility (CSR) funds to continue scaling up its key activities.

Success factors

Sustained leadership in the driving organisation

  • Sustained value proposition for the leadership: The leadership at TBS continued to see value in advocating for water conservation at the national level and further scaling their efforts to regional level as they saw impact at scale from their previous efforts and feasibility in continuing their work.

Sync between the solution and the enabling environment

  • Bring suitable change to the enabling environment: At the state level, by focusing their energy on economically weaker sections, and through building appropriate partnerships at local and regional levels, TBS was able to increase water availability and accessibility for those who were struggling to access the resource.

Institutionalisation at community level

  • Enable community ownership: By constantly aligning the programme to fulfil the needs of the most vulnerable sections, TBS continued to gain trust of the community members who further drove the programme forward by participating in and leading yatras across the country.

  • Create and maintain self-governing institutions:With the success of Arvari Parliament, TBS noticed the power of self-governed councils at the village level and advocated for more such councils in other parts of Rajasthan.

Financial sustainability

  • Bring funding from diverse sources: As TBS’s success was now recognised internationally, they could leverage this visibility to tap into other sources of funds such as award money and CSR funds.


Virtual Interview, Maulik Sisodia, Executive Director, TBS. 2022

Virtual Interview, Arnima Jain, Manager-Growth & Partnerships, TBS. 2022.

Telephonic interview, Dr Rajendra Singh, Founder, TBS. 2022.


Kumar, Pankaj, and B. M. Kandpal. 2003. “Department for Asia Project on Reviving and Constructing Small Water Harvesting Systems in Rajasthan.” https://cdn.sida.se/publications/files/sida3380en-project-on-reviving-and-constructing-small-waterharvesting-systems-in-rajasthan.pdf.

“To Hell and Back.” Down to Earth, March 15, 1999. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/coverage/to-hell-and-back-19488.

F“Waters of Life.” Down to Earth. 1999.https://www.downtoearth.org.in/coverage/waters-of-life-19486


CSR corporate social responsibility
MoEF Ministry of Environment and Forests
NGBRA National Ganga River Basin Authority
NGO non-governmental organisation
RHS rainwater harvesting systems
RJB Rashtriya Jal Biradari
SHG self-help group
SIDA Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency
TBS Tarun Bharat Sangh