“Water, water, everywhere, nor a drop to drink”

by Kavya Menon

Those famous words in S. T. Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is very much relevant and appropriate in large parts all over the world, thanks to over-exploitation of our environment: global warming, de-forestation, polluting and over-use of water sources, lack of ground water recharge options and many more.

As part of my one year on attempting to contribute in rural development as a fellow with the Youth For India, sponsored by SBI, I am working on health and hygiene aspects of salt pan workers in Vedaranyam, a prime salt producing centre. Extreme harsh conditions of heat, salt concentrations, long working hours and hard manual labour has created Chronic Dehydration for the salt pan labourers.

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RO plant and water cans built with funds and training from USAID in Arcottuthurai village; Currently abandoned as no one is interested to take part in maintenance

Excess of salt in ground water and lack of rains has made it very difficult for local populations to access good drinking water at homes too. The primary source of drinking water, from the Kollidam river, is both insufficient (4 pots/family; up to 2-3 times a week) and often not clean enough. Other sources are the hand pumps/wells/bore wells having mildly saline to extremely saline water; and bore wells of tobacco farms (though not saline, have high nicotine content).

On the event of the International World Water Day, I’m posting a collection of issues related to water unavailability that I found in this beautiful Vedararnyam.

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The only functional RO plant; thanks to dedicated villagers of Seruthalaikadu village who follow the training given and call up the maintenance team regularly

Overall, it is a sad picture of water unavailability. In my stint here, a lot of support from the NGO MSSRF’s staff at Vedaranyam has been very instrumental for me to understand the ground realities. A lot of work for providing good drinking water has been happening in all the 14 adopted villages with MSSRF’s involvement. Last week, a well was constructed in a non-saline land by MSSRF to supplement the water from Kollidam dam that is provided by the government for the drinking purpose to Kovilthavu village.

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Inauguration of well constructed by MSSRF, after assessing the need with the participation of villagers of Kovilthavu village

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A typical sight of water collection at a tap that caters to 3-5 households. Water comes maximum for an hour, up to 2 or 3 times in a week

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Kids were posing for me before their late afternoon dip in the salty village pond. Swimming is their ultimate fun after coming home from school

N.B. – I am also striving to provide good drinking water in salt pans. I am being supported by Desolenator, a service from Innovation eXperience where I was working before joining SBI YFI. More on it in a later post.

 

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