Bringing Water to Jeeva Nagar, Panjanterutee, Southeast India
by Peter Coughlan, PhD, Executive Director, WaterBridge Outreach: Books + Water
Two years ago author and Waterbridge Outreach (WBO) team member Gail Tsukiyama and I, together with Curt Degler of Save International (SI), visited a small Irular enclave in Kazhanipakkam, Tamil Nadu, Southeast India. We were gripped by the extreme poverty and hardship of these people, but we were also deeply moved by their struggle to do what they can to improve their own situation – and to do it with a smile! To say that these people are poor hardly expresses the harsh reality in which they live. It was Curt who, on a previous visit, had introduced me to the Irular people, known in India as “tribals” since they do not belong to any of the scheduled castes. Working with SI, WBO established a borewell with hand pump for this Irular enclave. Click here to see photos and learn more about this project.
Since that enclave flooded each year, the people had to leave their waterlogged huts until the flood water subsided. WBO therefore provided the seed money for a house in the enclave, a house-building program that Curt Degler of SI has been able to carry much further. Thanks to this, these villagers now have protection when the annual floods arrive.
Very recently WBO has been working with SI to install a 150ft well with hand pump in a rapidly expanding Irular enclave some distance from Kazhanipakkam. This is known as the Jeeva Nagar enclave. This enclave, which is on the outskirs of Panjanterutee village where WBO had previously done together with SI, is expanding because the majority of newcomers are victims of what is known as “the illegal bonded labor segment” – the bonded laborers in this “labor segment” are perhaps best described as modern-day slaves. These particular bonded laborers were released by Government agents. But there was a problem: these Irular people had nowhere to go. Eventually, they were allotted village land in Jeeva Nagar that was not already registered.
Curt Degler described this desperate situation to us: “There are now over 40 huts, over 100 people, with more coming in every month. In any case they are without a proper 24-7 water source for bathing and washing and consumption, getting intermittent village water for ½ an hour on some days only.”
WBO therefore decided to work with SI to see what could be done to remedy the situation. Once it was ascertained that a well could be successfully drilled to obtain water without too many contaminants, WBO decided to raise fund to enable the work to go
ahead. Photos accompanying this story show the work under way and the people involved in the project.
There is a further important reason for being able to obtain water in this Jeeva Nagar. Hands on Houses, a South African NGO, intends to work with SI to build houses here similar to those mentioned above in Kazhanipakkam. Water is crucial because it is required for the cement and masonry work.
One of the very attractive features from the WBO point of view is that is shows what collaborative effort among different nonprofit organizations can do in the service of those in need: in this case a collaboration among WBO, SI, and Hands on Houses.