Along with drinking, cooking, bathing and washing needs, fresh water is needed for hydrating and cleaning livestock and watering essential food plants during dry periods. These requirements are usually met by the women and girls who fetch water from the nearest source each day: open wells, nearby streams, communal taps, or in many places, public hand pumps.
For many households, these water sources are several hundred metres walking distance from the house. Accustomed to the heavy work of carrying the large vessels, women and girls carry out this responsibility with cheer and smiles along well-tread paths. However, several hours a day may be spent on this task, leaving little or no time for attending school, earning additional income, spending time with the children, or even getting sleep.
Recognising this hardship and the burden women undergo, Amma has made it a priority to ensure accessible, clean and dependable water sources in the villages. Amrita SeRVe and departments of Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham have collaborated to assess the current state of water access, repair existing infrastructure, and carefully plan and execute the construction of new distribution systems.
Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham’s Center for Wireless Networks and Applications (WNA), the Department of Civil Engineering and the Live-in-Labs® programme have joined forces with the Amrita SeRVe team to design and build low- cost water distribution systems in the villages of Pandori (Jammu), Harirampura (Rajasthan), Guptapada (Odisha), Gudipati Cheruvu (Andhra Pradesh) and Komalikudi (Kerala). Such systems generally consist of laying underground pipes from natural water sources or bore-wells to overhead storage tanks in the village, as well as installing taps at various strategic locations throughout the villages.
In some places, existing infrastructure has been either repaired or extended. For example, when one hand pump was repaired in Ratanpur (Bihar), an additional four hand pumps were built in the community. In Valaramkunnu (Kerala), an existing pipeline between a nearby dam on a mountain stream had been destroyed by wild elephants, cutting off the entire fresh water supply to the village. Amrita SeRVe laid a new water pipeline over an approximate distance of three kilometres to restore a dependable freshwater supply to the village.
Jivamritam Drinking Water
In September 2017, Amma launched the Jivamritam clean drinking-water initiative in the presence of India’s President, Shri Ram Nath Kovind. The goal is to provide water filtration in 5,000 villages throughout India. Each Jivamritam System is capable of filtering the daily drinking-water needs of up to 400 five-member families. This nationwide campaign has also been implemented in some Amrita SeRVe villages. Jivamritam systems are already up-and-running in Indpur (Himachal Pradesh), Nani Borvai (Gujarat), Naglachandi (Uttar Pradesh) and Gudipati Cheruvu (Andhra Pradesh), with several more locations under way.
Open-defecation free village
Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham’s AMMACHI Labs has been leading the 101 villages Toilet-Construction program, which aims to improve public health as well as transform the lack of basic hygiene facilities into one of economic empowerment. Its approach is focussed on strengthening women through skills training, income generation and SHGs. These three elements are the pillars on which the Open-Defecation-Free-Village campaign was built.
AMMACHI Labs has been offering a training course to interested women on the construction, installation and maintenance of new toilets in their communities. The course covers the basics of plumbing, masonry and construction skills. Women can benefit from these professional skills to take on related jobs or come together to start a toilet-construction business. They are also instructed on the importance of hygienic practices. By putting this knowledge into practice, these women are becoming ambassadors for change in their communities, helping to raise awareness and improve sanitation facilities.
The Amala Bharatam Campaign (ABC) is an expression of Amma’s commitment to support the ‘Clean India Movement’. An Amrita-designed initiative launched in 2010, it was introduced to the villages at the very beginning of the Amrita SeRVe project. Encompassing regular clean-up drives with children and SHG members, more than 700 drives in 34 villages have been conducted over the last three years alone. Cleaner villages, where residents regularly demonstrate their awareness in handling waste, are the visible result.