In conversation with K. J. Joy of SOPPECOM

Author name: Priya Desai

KJ Joy speaks at a felicitation for the late Professor Ramaswamy Iyer. 📷 source: IWP

To many in the water sector, K. J. Joy needs no introduction. An activist at heart, Joy is known for his untiring rights based work in mobilising communities in rural Maharashtra, and for his research work on water and water related conflicts including inter-state riparian water conflicts.

In a conversation at the Water Future Conference in Bangalore last month, he talked about his journey - from where it all began, to where we stand today, three decades later. 

As the water crisis in India and across the world continues to grow, and as equity in access to safe water becomes more and more critical, it is important to keep in mind some basic values that underpin the work that needs to be done. Joy personifies these values, and it is people like him that inspire others to work on these complex issues. We must constantly strive to emulate these values, if we are to ever achieve water security for all in India.

It is also important to remember that working together with local communities, empowering and enabling them to demand for what is rightfully theirs, to take ownership of their water resources so they become self reliant, is still, even today, a powerful tool and process to achieve sustainable social change at the grassroot level. While this work takes time and patience and perseverance, it is critical that we remember the roots of social change in this country - where and how it all started - and always endeavour to stay true to these roots.

How did you start working on water issues?

I got into water issues mainly because after my Master's from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, I was at a crossroads