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Bore Well and Hand Pump Project ~ Anna Nagar, Tamil Nadu, India

by Peter Coughlan, PhD, Executive Director of WaterBridge Outreach: Books + Water

Anna Nagar consists of a hamlet of around 25 huts and two decaying concrete buildings. It is about 15 miles west of Mamallapuram in Tamil Nadu, Southeast India. Its inhabitants, around 60 in number, all belong to the Irula scheduled tribal people. These people, who have long experienced discrimination, live isolated lives on the edge of communities of the scheduled castes and for the most part, they are desperately poor.  The men make their living as occasional agricultural laborers, for example cutting down the thorn trees which are a blight on the land, or working on the casuarina trees that provide commercial wood used for wooden posts, the construction of huts, wood pulp, and so on.                                                                (click on images to enlarge)

Their infrastructure is minimal. They depended, for example, for water on a municipal water source some distance away that provided, when all was functioning properly, water for half an hour a day. When that water failed, as often happened, they relied on a local community with whom, however, there has been a degree of antagonism and therefore there was uncertainty regarding water supplies. Among their greatest needs was an independent water source.

The Irula people are for the most part semi-nomadic, but their presence in Anna Nagar goes back about fifty years due to an Irula man who agreed to work as a bonded labourer for a local landowner in exchange for permission to live on half an acre of land. In the course of time he and his descendants managed to purchase this land, something that is not at all easy to achieve for these tribal people.


Thanks to funding provided by staff of the JosephJoseph company in collaboration with WaterBridge Outreach, SAVE Int’l has been able to install a bore well and a hand pump in this hamlet.

This, as the villagers themselves have said, has transformed their lives. It not only helps avoid tensions and conflicts with nearby communities, but also provides water for bathing, cooking, for washing clothes and cleaning pans, for watering their small garden plots and drinking. Moreover, in the intense heat of this part of India it allows the people to bathe and cool off. SAVE Int’l organized careful testing of the water and found it is drinkable, although boiling is recommended. It will be necessary to maintain and, if necessary, repair the pump at least once a year, but the well and pump are working well. Even though there has not been rain since early December, the heavy rain and floods in Tamil Nadu just prior to that period have ensured that the water table is high and that the surrounding rice fields are in good shape.In the large photo below, Curt Degler of SAVE Int'l with some of the Irula villagers.

An important plus where the well and pump are concerned is that having their own water supply has helped give the inhabitants of Anna Nagar, inclined by Irula traditions towards a semi-nomadic existence, a greater sense of identity, belonging, and stability.  This is important for these Irula people and their families as the huge metropolis of Chennai (formerly Madras) expands southwards with the threat of dispossession of their residential land.

All this shows what can be done in these areas at relatively little expense. SAVE Int’l and WaterBridge Outreach are very grateful for the funds from the staff of JosephJoseph, raised through their participation in the annual summer “Color Run” in London. This is an event participants enter in order to raise funds for various charities. It is called the “Color Run” because many of the participants start off the five kilometre course, mostly in white clothes and the Run is open to young and old and all fitness levels, and are then pelted with brightly colored powders at each kilometre marker as they run, jog, walk, or dance the course. The result is a kaleidoscope of color at the finishing line, described by at least some participants as the happiest five kilometres in the world! Many thanks JosephJoseph!

Published May 2016

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