Thirsting for water on a hot summer day? Drink some yourself and fill a bowl for the birds too. Here’s an app that will help you.
“I saw a small bird in my garden the other day. It was a hot summer afternoon and the bird was sitting close to a tap, trying really hard to get access to a drop of water somehow. I went to my garden and filled a pot of water for the bird. And since that day, many birds often come to satisfy their thirst. I am glad I saw the bird, otherwise I don’t know for how long it would have roamed around in search of a drop of water,” recalls Gunjan Arora, a Delhi resident.
Not every bird is as lucky as the one Gunjan helped. Every year, thousands of birds die during the scorching summer months due to heat and thirst. We cannot keep an eye on all the birds but the least we can do is ensure that some of them get access to the life-giving water they need, especially in urban areas where natural water resources are rare.
Now there’s an app that not only helps you set up an earthen bowl for the birds but also helps you remember to refill the bowl whenever the water dries up. Introducing Bird Tap, a mobile app designed and launched by Surat-based animal welfare NGO, Prayas Team Environment Charitable Trust, in collaboration with Humane Society International, Hyderabad.
“We were already working in the field of animal welfare and had been distributing thousands of earthen bowls to people in the summer. The objective was to provide water for thirsty birds. But we could not keep track of these bowls and whether they were serving their purpose. So we thought of launching an app, which would be a more systematic approach to installing and maintaining these water bowls,” says Darshan Desai, president of Prayas.
The Bird Tap app helps ensure that millions of birds don’t go thirsty
The app helps users get free-of-cost water bowls and install them in public or private places where they can be accessed easily by birds. Prayas has set up several water bowl distribution centres across Surat.
These earthen bowls are made from a special soil that keeps the water cool during summer – hence, they are not easily available in the market. Users can register with the app by providing their names and mobile numbers. They can then see the list of water bowl distributors and choose the one closest to them.
A unique token number is then provided to the user, which he/she can use to avail of the free water bowl from the selected distributor. After receiving the bowl, users can confirm receipt by pressing the “pot received” button on the screen.
The next step is the most crucial one. It requires the user to actually install the water bowl and take a photo of the same and upload to the app for the purpose of verification. Users can choose the visibility of the post as either “public” or “private”.
While the location of a public pot will be visible to all the other users and they too can refill the pot if they want, a private pot’s location will not be disclosed to anyone. Users will also be required to maintain and refill the bowls on a regular basis.
“After our initial research, we realised that a pot dries up in about three hours. So we send notifications to our users to refill the bowls in case they have forgotten to do so,” says Darshan.
Users get a notification on the app every morning at 9 am. After that, “users get notified thrice a day but it is advisable to keep track themselves and fill the bowls as many times as they can,” says Darshan.
Launched in May 2015, the Bird Tap application already has over 3,500 users
“Earlier, we would get a lot of calls from people asking about our water bowl distribution centres in summer. Sometimes, this would even block our rescue helplines. The app has helped us follow a systematic approach and simplified the access to water bowl distributors too,” says Darshan.
“Another benefit we have seen from the app is that only genuinely interested people approach the distributors and install the app since they have to update the photos, status of the pot etc. on a regular basis. It also helps us measure the need for water bowls in certain areas,” says Darshan.
The app not only helps provide access to water bowls but also ensures that these bowls are installed at the right places – they are all mapped on the app.
The Prayas team plans to have over 15,000 water bowls in an area of 100 square kilometers.
Currently working in just Surat city in Gujarat, the Prayas team now wants to expand its reach to other cities across India as well.
“We are experimenting with different features to make the app even more useful. We want to take it to multiple cities and get more people to use it. We are still mapping the impact made by our current users so we have not come up with a final plan as yet” says Darshan.
The Prayas team is open to sharing its model with anyone who wants to start a similar initiative in his/her city. The app is currently available only on Android and the Prayas team is working to make it available on iOS too. You can download it here. To know more about their work, check out their website.