It started with a film. Four years ago a group of Class 7 students from Cathedral and John Connon School watched Al Gore's documentary on global warming, 'An Inconvenient Truth'. It was a cause they immediately warmed up to.
The impression the film created led them on environmental awareness sprees, then to distributing solar lamps in some villages of Thane district, and now to a water-harvesting project in one of the hamlets.
A group of nine students under the banner of a group they call "Solar" (Save Our Land And Rise), raised funds to help rebuild a well and install a water harvesting system in Thane district's Ghagurli village last month.
"Since it was at the time of the monsoons we thought, why not do something to help collect the water, prevent wastage and help recycle it," said Suveer Daswani, 15, one of the group's members, all of whom are now in Class 10.
The students used some of the savings from a previous project they had undertaken, and in all raised Rs3.5 lakh, with help from corporate groups. The water harvesting facility and well were built a month ago.
"When we first went there and saw women walking three kilometres everyday to get water, it was tragic," said Latisha Shah, 15, another student in the group. "It's very exciting to see the completion of our work."
At the inauguration of the project last month, the group invited Abha Singh, director of postal services, Maharashtra as the chief guest. "It's a marvellous group of students, who are very dedicated and it was touching to watch them communicate with the villagers," said Singh. She added that the department of posts would try and continue to work with the students by helping through financial inclusion schemes for such villagers.
The students of Cathedral and John Connon School, a sought after south-Mumbai schools, said they had their apprehensions about the project. "Initially we had our doubts," said Devika Kapadia, 15. "But as we started going to villages, cliched as this sounds, we connected with the people. There is something common that binds us all."
The group's parents and teachers helped, but the project was mainly the students' initiative. The work hasn't ended with the water harvesting project, though. The group of nine has now set its sights on distributing solar cookers in the village at the end of the year, once they are done with their exams.