The Eco Guide

The Eco Guide-L’Eco Guide

21st Feb. 2014

Creative Impact – Aabid Surti and the Drop Dead Foundation

Rashi Nagpal

‘Little drops make the ocean’ is an old proverbial teaching preached by many. However, it is ironical how many of us actually take heed of the same when it comes to preserving fresh water, the scarcity of which is a serious concern in many parts of India and other countries.

Mr. Aabid Surti, a septuagenarian from suburban Mumbai (India) took it upon himself to follow the proverb to its letter. In 2007, Mr. Surti, accompanied by a local plumber, started visiting houses in the Mira Road locality of Mumbai to enquire about and fix for free any leaking pipes, faucets or taps. It has been reported that Mr. Surti was disturbed by the nonchalant attitude of people for not fixing leaky faucets.

Mr. Surti, who is also an Indian National Award winning author and artist, has set up a non-governmental organization (NGO) called Drop Dead Foundation1 with the motto ‘Save every drop or drop dead’. The mission of this NGO is not an ordinary one. As reported across several publications, Mr. Surti, himself part of a three member team including a plumber and volunteer, go from building to building, in suburban Mumbai fixing leaking faucets in every household so visited. This schedule is followed meticulously on every Sunday. As reported on the WSJ website2 on December 18, 2013, Drop Dead Foundation claims to have fixed nearly 5000 leaky taps in close to 9500 buildings in Mumbai, saving about 5.6 million liters of portable water by the end of 2012. This feat is by no means a small one considering that faulty plumbing is an ignored cause of wastage of the precious natural resource water. In India, ignorance of the magnitude of such water wastage can be due to a laid back attitude towards fixing minor plumbing issues. And also, as many people living in impoverished conditions cannot afford to spend on a plumber.

Mr. Surti’s exploits, certainly an unconventional endeavor, have been met with enthusiasm in the country and even to some extent internationally. It has been reported on the website, The Alternative3, that the German media broadcasted the work of Drop Dead Foundation in a documentary called ‘Wasserknappheit in Bombay: Kampf um den letzten Tropfen (Water shortage in Bombay: Struggle for the Last Drop) across the European continent.

In terms of funding for his efforts, Mr. Surti has been reported (as noted by an article featuring on the website of Asian Development Bank4) as saying that initially he invested the cash prize of INR 100,000 (approx. USD 1600) into the Drop Dead Foundation. He had received this endowment as part of a lifetime achievement award for literature from the Uttar Pradesh Hindi Sansthan soon after he started the NGO. It is also reported that amongst other donations received by his NGO from time to time, his NGO attracted donations for its work at the World Plumbing Conference held in Delhi in November 2013, after Mr. Surti made a presentation about the NGO’s work at the Conference.

The accomplishment of the Drop Dead Foundation, albeit unconventional, is due to the commendable effort of an individual to end inaction. It sends across a clear message to us all that every drop counts, well literally!!.