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BRINGING WATER TO DOORSTEPS

In village life in India, collecting water can be a tremendous chore—a chore which is, for the most part, placed upon the shoulders of women and girls. The women fill jars or buckets and carry them on their heads to transport the water. They walk an average of 10 miles a day and carry 15 litres per trip to get water for the needs of their household. This includes simple yet necessary daily duties like cooking, washing, cleaning, drinking, and caring for cattle.

The heavy load of water buckets causes many health issues in the form of pain in the back and the feet. Posture problems are a result. Heat increases exhaustion for the women, and the time required to get water means less time for other work and responsibilities. Sometimes, young girls have to miss school frequently to help their mothers and then eventually drop out.

On the other side of the coin, water is becoming an increasingly valuable resource. While rainfall has remained consistent, India has overused its water supply. The quest to seek water for the household means walks over longer distances away from home and the passing of more time each day.

Waste of water for Amma is like blood oozing out of her body. In many regions Amma has seen people walking long distances to fetch drinking water. Since she also has done so in the past, when Amma sees water waste, she knows the plight of water scarcity.

Amma

Acknowledging and responding to the need, Amma encouraged faculty, staff and students of Amrita University departments to go to the villages and build a water distribution system. Amrita Center for Wireless Networks & Applications joined with the Department of Civil Engineering, and the Amrita Center for International Programs to travel to communities in Rajasthan, Odisha, and Kerala. The project was an initiative of Amrita University´s Live-in-Labs Programme that applies theoretical knowledge to address the challenges faced by rural communities in India.

A Daily Bath at Home

In the village of Harirampur in Rajasthan, the water is now distributed to 65 homes. Also, five water taps are placed conveniently in public areas. On the technical side, the pipes are connected to two overhead tanks which store 5,000 litres of water each. Recently, M.A. Math also constructed a bore well in the village, so that the team could concentrate on collecting water to supply the tanks.

Villagers expressed their gratitude to Amma, ¨for bringing water to their doorstep¨. Many indicated their hopelessness that nobody had wanted to come to the village to help due to lack of structured roads. Some conveyed their desire to meet Amma who came to the village in the form of these university departments. The children of the village are now able to take a bath daily without walking kilometers to the river. Children also expressed their thankfulness by asking: “Amma has done so much for us, we also want to do something for Amma. What can we do?”

Working for the Village

In Guptapada village in Odisha, water is distributed to 60 households where neighbouring clusters of homes share a tap. Here also, an overhead water tank was installed which currently stores 5,000 litres. Amrita team, with the help of the enthusiastic villagers, manually dug the trenches that measured from 550 meters to 700 meters long. Guptapada residents expressed their willingness to participate in the work saying: “All of you are helping us. We will also help you. This is our village. We will work with you!”

Many expressed their gratitude to Amma, because now they don´t have to make long treks to collect and carry the water to back home. Urmila, a young village woman, said that having the water tank in the village “is a great privilege” and one that will not go unacknowledged.

Collaboration Makes Things Happen

In the tribal village of Komalikudy in the district of Idukki in Kerala,  residents previously had access to water only seven months in a year. In addition, the water used was contaminated due to run-off from their fields, which carry a high concentration of chemical pesticides.

The team and the villagers held regular meetings and decided to dig a bore well and set-up water tanks. Supported by a temple priest, the bore well and the tanks were established in the temple compound. The water committee also decided on how many taps would be placed and at which locations. A network of pipes now fills two overhead water tanks; one of 3,000 liters and one of 5,000. The water flows to a cluster of 90 houses and various public areas. The village community center, the anganwadi (pre-school), and the multi-grade learning center now have access to water. The entire framework is powered by a micro hydro generator—an initiative by Amma to utilize renewable resources to provide electricity to rural communities. The continuous supply of power from the generator ensures that villagers have access to clean water throughout the day.

In the tribal village of Komalikudy in the district of Idukki in Kerala,  residents previously had access to water only seven months in a year. In addition, the water used was contaminated due to run-off from their fields, which carry a high concentration of chemical pesticides.

There was a huge amount of community participation, and villagers generously donated their time to the project. One villager even gave access to his family’s land in order to lay down the pipe network. Seeing the work done by the Amrita team and villagers, Thathi, Komalikudi’s innocent yet wise matriarch, repeatedly said the availability of clean water inside the village was “a great blessing from Amma”. The sentiment was echoed by the village children who would squeal with joy every time they opened a tap, marvelling at the flow of cool, clean water. They would then engage in childlike frolicking by splashing water on each other, bringing smiles, giggles, and laughter all around.

Cultivating a Spirit of Service

Due to the hours of hard work invested by the Amrita team and villagers, the majority of homes in all three villages have direct access to water. Through the above village projects, Amma has succeeded in giving participating young professionals and students at Amrita University an opportunity to look beyond their immediate self-interests and well-being. She has cultivated in them a spirit of service and caring for communities that are less fortunate and privileged than themselves. Many of the young staff and students expressed how fulfilled they felt that they were able to apply their education and training to address challenges faced by rural communities—a sentiment they will hopefully carry into their future professional lives.

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