Water warrior Anupam Mishra, writer of the books Aaj Bhi Khare Hain Talaab (The Lakes are Still Alive) and Rajasthan Ki Rajat Boondein (Radiant Raindrops of Rajasthan), both landmark works in the field of water conservation died on Monday morning. He was 68.

In 2009, Mishra had spoken on a subject close to his heart at a TED conference: The ancient ingenuity of water harvesting. In the 18-minute talk, the conservationist outlined the water harvesting techniques used in India’s golden desert area – which receives the lowest rainfall in the country – some of which have been in existence for close to four centuries. Hundreds of thousands of litres of water are stored and harvested this way.

Mishra juxtaposes these traditional techniques with the government’s multi-million dollar project to bring water from the Himalayas to the area which failed. These new canals became filled with sand and water hyacinth as no water flowed through them. The one positive, observed Mishra humorously, was that at least you got to see wildlife in the area.