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Installing water facilities – changing lives
Please read below for a detailed description of our project completed in Tamily Nadu, India in July and August of 2009.
In July and August of 2009 we travelled to Tamil Nadu, a southern state of India, to implement a bore-well for a tribal village. This village was named Kondanoor-Pudur, and was in desperate need of clean drinking water. Our inspiration for the project came when we were visiting our relatives in India on previous trips. Our own family is from Tamil Nadu, and as young kids, we noticed how so many people were living without a clean and reliable source of water there. Here in Canada, we take water for granted, but by living in a different culture for a few months, we learned about the real lack of water that exists. We realized that we wanted to help change the situation there, so we decided to start an organization called “Water Well-ness Project”.
The community in our home town of Deep River, as well as local schools and surrounding communities, were truly an integral part for the project. During the year prior to our project, we fundraised, selling east-indian food at our local festival called Summerfest, selling samosas during the winter holiday season, and holding fundraisers at regional schools, all in an effort to support the installation of water facilities in India. We were lucky enough to find local businesses in India to work with, such as India Builders (Chennai) Limited, Coimbatore (Director Mr. Govindhan and his staff, including significant help from Mr. Krishnn Ayyar) and Mahendra Pumpsets, Coimbatore, who kindly helped sponsor parts of the project. With their help, we were able to do more for Kondanoor-Pudur than we would have alone.
At the beginning of July 2009 we embarked on our journey to India. We visited several villages in the state and surveyed their need for a source of clean drinking water. While searching for villages, we would sometimes have to walk numerous kilometres because the villages were unreachable by car. Also, many of the areas we visited were notorious for wild animals, like enormous roaming elephants! One time, while walking towards a village, we came across a large pile of elephant dung, which we thought was pretty cool, but at the same time meant that there were wild elephants around.
We talked to the local village governments (called the “Panchayat Board”), village elders, and even the women whose responsibilities included fetching water, about their view of their water situation. According to their thoughts and our research, we chose Kondanoor-Pudur, a village of roughly 300 people that had a dried out source of water. After choosingthe village, we began to organize the installation of the well. Our first step was to determine the location where the bore-well would be installed within the village. We hired a “Diviner”, who used traditional methods to determine the precise location of the best source of water. His techniques were nothing like what we expected – for example, he used a coconut lying on his palm, walked around the general area of the water source, and waited for the coconut to stand straight up, pointing to the sky, which indicated the precise point of the water source. We were amazed, and even got to try the technique ourselves, learning that it wasn’t a trick!
Next, after the location of the water source was found, we hired a bore-well driller and a rig truck for the drilling of the well. The rig truck was an enormous machine, weighing more than 27 tonnes!
There were numerous small details to arrange, a part of the project that we did not anticipate. Getting engineers to inspect the overhead water tank that already existed in the village, getting permission from the local government, or finding a rig truck that could actually make it to our location because of the winding and bending landscape, were some of the many challenges that we came to realize as the project progressed. At times, we felt so overwhelmed by how many things we were taking care of at once. But with persistence, we kept working, determined to finish the project and provide the village with the very-needed clean drinking water.
We chose a day in the middle of August to start drilling and organized to have all the equipment, machinery and man power needed for the drilling. Because of various problems, on the day of the drilling, we could only start drilling around 8 p.m. It was an amazing feeling when the drill made its first plunge into the rock – it really made the project feel real. According to the Diviner, we were supposed to find a big source of water around 200 ft into the drilling. When we reached around 200ft, the soil came up damp. However, we found out that the water the well would produce would not be enough to sustain the village for many years. So, we decided to keep drilling deeper. By 6 in the morning, we were down to around 680 ft. After discussions with some of the engineers, we learned that our well would produce a good source of water. We were utterly relieved!
So with the well dug, our next job was to install a pump for the water. With help from one of the businesses we were working with, we were advised to use a pressurized air pump, and soon were able to have it installed. The air pump drives the water from the ground up to fill an overhead tank, one that already existed, but was not currently being used because of the village’s lack of water. Once the well was drilled and the pump set in place, we arranged for the Panchayat board and various people of the village to monitor the use and maintenance of the well and pump. These people have the job to look after the project since we could not be there in India to do so – we had to ensure that the water was not wasted and that the well would be sustained for many years.
After the well was successfully installed, we had an inauguration ceremony to celebrate the achievement. The entire village, along with the Panchayat government and even our own relatives and grandparents attended the ceremony. We gave a speech to thank the village and the partners we worked with for all their help. Included in the speech was a talk aboutsustainability for this well, and the importance of preserving the resource we provided that is necessary for life – water. As well, after talking to some of the villagers and the teacher of the local school, we decided to buy some supplies that the school children needed. The students had very little school supplies like geometry boxes and notebooks and sports equipment. We really wanted to help these kids out, so we bought these supplies, and distributed them at the ceremony.
The project turned out to be something we never could have dreamed of. It did not go along without a hitch, there definitely were numerous challenges that almost made the project come to a standstill, but in the end, we were able to provide Kondonoor-Pudur with clean drinking water. Some of the greatest lessons we learned from doing the project include the importance of effective communication and the difficulty and sheer quantity of administration work that comes with running a project to this scale. We realize that the project couldn’t have happened without the support of all the people in our community. We thank them all so much for taking such a great interest in our work, and donating as much as they did. Because we didn’t work through a large already-established organization, and did the project independently, we ensured that every single dollar of the money we raised went directly towards the installation of the water facilities. As well, we always like to thank our parents, who helped us in every step of the project. Next for us, is more projects similar to this nature. We are so excited to embark on many more journeys like this one.