Where does charity lie? A day at a project site.

September 20, 2014 

Praveena, our India Project Coordinator is visiting our partner in Eastern Andhra. Here she shares her thoughts and observations.

This week another water supply project goes live in a distant village in Eastern Ghats of India. This idyllic day of the monsoon month can easily fool a visitor into thinking that the households here are as abundant in water as the streams appear.

Full streams or not, either way, the people must hike a kilometre at least to fetch water at any time of the year. Water quality isn't even a distant concern. This is a situation that our new Gravity Water Flow System (GWFS) based water supply project changes as soon as it goes live.

Gravity water flow system uses springs that are found in hills as the source of water supply. The community chooses the spring that will supply the water needs with technical support from a project members of our local partner after a selection procedure. The selection procedure is conducted to ascertain if the spring is suitable to build a GWFS using it as a source. That involves observation of spring’s perenniality, its yield, altitude of the spring and discussion with locals to know the history of spring.

Once the source is decided, with the participation of community, expert from VJNNS (our local partner) looks at the route to get the water to the village and the location of distribution tank is decided. Sometimes the spring is as far as 3 or 4 kilometers from the distribution tank. This process is technically challenging in the case of GWFS because unlike most other supply systems GWFS doesn't use any energy to draw water from the source to the distribution tank or from the distribution tank to the stand posts near the households. With zero energy consumption GWFS are the best for remote regions where electricity is limited in supply and unreliable. 

But for such a project to work this requires cooperation in the community.  Like in the case of the first village Debametla that I visited today, the spring that was identified as a suitable source was located in a private property of an individual from another village. And if the spring was developed he or his village will not benefit anyway as his village was located upstream of the spring. But he still generously accepted to let the spring be developed and used to supply water to Debametla. Whereas in Vamegada Kotur village, the distribution tank had to be located in a particular elevation and that happened to belong to Samalingam and Krishnapadal. Both of them gave away their land for the purpose without a second thought. 

As an inspiring day comes to an end, I begin to think where does real charity lie in this project. Is it an act done only by those who help finance it? Or is it also those two brothers who chose to donate a part of their land to set up the distribution tank for the supply system. The concern is not about whose act of charity is greater. Its about being able to see the unnoticed and often unacknowledged ones. They make a difference as much as any other act of charity.

 Our work with the communities finishes that last mile which makes or breaks a project through these acts of charity. It is humbling and overwhelming to see the communities step in to lead the charge. Ours is perhaps a charity inspired by these million little charities happening in these distant corners of the world. 

Walk to the source of spring for Debametla

Walk to the source of spring for Debametla

Distribution tank where the spring water gets filtered

Distribution tank where the spring water gets filtered

Stand post from where villagers fetch water to their house. The farthest house is 50 m from this post

Stand post from where villagers fetch water to their house. The farthest house is 50 m from this post

A villager carrying water from the standpost

A villager carrying water from the standpost

Samalingam and Krishnapadal who donated their land for distribution tank, Vamgada Kottur

Samalingam and Krishnapadal who donated their land for distribution tank, Vamgada Kottur