Tristan Gooley, an author and natural navigator says “If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water”. Given its essentiality for survival for every living being, it is hard to disagree with his statement.
The water crisis is an escalating problem in many parts of the world, be it urban or rural. Even forest-dwelling communities that are dependent on natural springs in the forests are facing this crisis.
So was the case for the Kurumba inhabitants of Vellaricombei. Affected by the absence of monsoon rains in 2016 and lack of pipeline accessories, the community faced water shortage for more than a year, until a Water Security Plan was implemented in 2017.
While conversing with Masani, she said “We were unable to take the goats out for grazing, or clean the house or do our chores, because we’ll have to spend a whole day fetching water all the way from the source and back to the village”. (Four to five kilometers through the jungle).
The Water Security plan was evolved by the community members, especially women, over many rounds of discussions and surveys of their water resources. Subsequently, at the source, which is found on the hill adjacent to the village, a spring box was built to keep the spring intact. The needs of wildlife such as elephants and gaurs, who visit the same springs that the community taps were also taken into account. While safeguarding the water supply to the village, the community also voluntarily dug another waterhole nearby for the wildlife to reduce conflicts in future.
Water from the spring is channeled to reach another spring box, from where…
Through another pipeline, the water reaches a larger storage tank which is constructed a little further from the source and the spring box. The tank was previously left unused, but after desilting and repairing leakages, it has become an efficient storage facility.
The pipeline from the storage tank snakes its way through the forest….
And it curls around the ridge, to begin its journey all the way down to the village…
Finally, the water gushes out into the village storage tank (30 feet), from where the water is supplied to households using hose pipes.With the village getting plentiful and assured supply of clean drinking water, many families who had migrated earlier have come back to the village.
“I can now peacefully take care of my child. Otherwise, I had to leave her with the neighbors or relatives in order to go fetch water for the day” says Madhubala.
Elephants are habitual visitors to Vellaricombei, mainly during the jackfruit season (May to June). To fulfill their appetite they sometimes become a little thoughtless.
But Janaki amma doesn’t consider this to be a problem, she says “They usually don’t misbehave, she sighs, only for the past two weeks they have been causing inconvenience”
Water Security Plans are formulated in consultation with communities. Financial support for pipelines and other accessories have been provided (Funded by Arghyam, Bengaluru) and the implementation has been completed in nine villages located in five regions (Aracode, Konavakarai, Coonoor, Sigur & Pillur).
These two boys did not react when we asked them if they knew where their water comes from. But their reaction seems like they are wondering if people living in the present are being mindful in preserving water for future generations.