On Friday, Feb. 24, Michele and Marella, two university students from the province of Brescia, will leave for India, where they will travel for three weeks with the aim of collecting stories and material on the water crisis that is affecting the Rajasthan region. Once back, they will take their journey to school.
By Katarina Vincic and Ilaria Bionda
Translation by: Edoardo Ruvolo
A journey in northern India inside the stories of the water crisis: 23 days, 7 trains, 7 cities, and two villages. Michele Castrezzati, a Youth Press Agency contributor, and Marella Valenti will be the protagonists of a long journey in search of water, collecting the stories of those struggling with desertification.
This issue concerning water scarcity is a major problem, but is treated with little importance, mainly because where the problem does not exist, people don’t generally find interest in investigating it either. “Our project was financed by the Pensogiovane call of the Oglio River Municipalities Consortium,” Michele tells us, “and consists of two parts: the first involves the collection of stories and material on the water crisis that is affecting the Indian region of Rajasthan, and the second is focused on organizing lessons in middle schools in the province of Brescia, to tell about the journey and make people think about the scarcity of the water resource from a global citizenship perspective.
Unfortunately, in a region like Rajasthan, where it rains for only two/three months of the year, during the monsoon season, and where wells and lakes are practically empty, with the climate crisis the problem of water scarcity is even more unstable than in other places: water becomes very precious and people, every day, have to wait hours, or walk kilometers, to get it or be able to use it. “Two hundred and eight villages in Rajasthan depend directly on water trucks (trucks that bring water, ed.). If one day the truck does not arrive, you suffer from thirst,” Michele, who, together with Marella, studied the situation for a long time before deciding where to embark on the journey, tells us.
There are numerous stories that the two young people will hear, see with their own eyes and experience on their own skin, putting themselves on a par with the local population. The first stop will be New Delhi, the capital of India, in where they are scheduled to visit one of the 375 slums there. Then, it will be the turn of India’s largest desert, the Thar, followed by the city of Jaisalmer, where it will be possible for the two travelers to discover what it means to live surrounded by sand, also used as a material to save water. One of the last stops will take them to the Ganges, India’s sacred river, where they will once again reflect on the importance of water and the issue of water pollution. Before concluding the trip, Michele and Marella will be hosted by an indigenous family in the village of Orchha, Madhya Pradesh, where they will be in close contact with those who know India better than anyone else, living a unique experience.
Along the way, the two young people will be supported by three associations: Hara Jeevan, a nonprofit organization in New Delhi, which works on reforestation projects throughout India; Sambhali Trust, an NGO in Jodhpur, which runs a school and an orphanage, supports children’s education and offers psychological support to abused women; and Jal Bagirathi Foundation, in Jaipur, whose work focuses on managing water supply in the driest areas of Rajasthan. All three of these entities will provide opportunities for Michele and Marella to meet with volunteers to learn more about these important issues.
But where did the idea for this trip come from? “Because of the major environmental issues we are experiencing in Italy as well, in a few years there could be the same problem related to water here in our country as well. So, it is good to know stories of those living in more serious circumstances, such as India, to reflect and be predisposed to respect the environment and water,” Michele explains. Another question arises for us, what are the expectations on the eve of departure? “Definitely to meet, approach and talk to as many people as possible, to collect as much material and as many stories.”
Michele and Marella, who besides being travel companions are also a couple in life, say they are “excited but at the same time intimidated about the long and tiring journey ahead of them. It will not be an easy journey, just think that the delay of a train could disrupt all the planned schedules, but it will surely be a unique and unforgettable experience. All we can do is wish Michele and Marella a safe journey and look forward to their return so that they can tell us about a meaningful adventure that could change the outlook and sensibilities of many young people.
If you would like to be updated on Michele and Marella’s journey follow them on their Instagram profile @india_jal.