WASHINGTON - Indian-American Bhagwati Agrawal is listed among CNN's Top 10 Heroes of 2015, for bringing safe drinking water to more than 10,000 drought-stricken people in his native Rajasthan. Each of the ten "everyday people doing remarkable things to make the world a better place" will receive $10,000 and be honoured at "CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute," a globally broadcast event on December 6.
The CNN Hero of the Year chosen on the basis of readers' votes will receive an additional $100,000 for his cause, CNN announced Thursday. Spurred by a water crisis in his homeland, Agrawal's nonprofit Sustainable Innovations created a rainwater harvesting system that now provides life-changing, safe drinking water across six villages in Rajasthan, the driest region of India. His system, called Aakash Ganga -- Hindi for "River from the Sky" -- is a network of rooftops, gutters, pipes and underground reservoirs that collect and store the monsoon rains, which fall from July to September, CNN reported. The system frees women and children, who had to walk miles to get water and clean dishes with sand to conserve it, to spend time doing more valuable activities. Not having to fetch water allows children, especially girls, to spend more time in school, CNN said. People report fewer health problems. Dairy cows have become twice as productive. "The way I look at it, I'm 70 years old" Agrawal told CNN. "I only have maybe 10 years left of active life. Right now I'm like Usain Bolt, the sprinter. ... And I will run very fast to accomplish this mission."