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The Rediff Special/ Vicky Nanjappa
Need water? Set aside caste differences
October 01, 2007
Well if you need water, then you ought to set aside caste differences.
Sounds strange but this is what the Vivekananda Kendra Natural Resources Development Project, an NGO, insists upon before taking up artificial recharging of tube wells in various villages in Tamil Nadu.
The secretary G Vasudeo, who has put in 30 years of service in the NGO, was in New Delhi recently to receive the 'Bhoomijal Samvardhan Puraskar' for innovative practices of groundwater augmentation through rainwater harvesting and artificial recharge.
He spoke with rediff.com about how the NGO had gone about its work and the manner in which they manage to unite society while shedding caste differences.
The project is of rural development and they work on herbal medicine, alternate energy sources, housing, water conservation, training and other things.
For his work on alternate energy sources, Vasudeo also won the International Ashden Award in 2006 in London [Images].
The award is popularly known as the Green Oscar.
Vasudeo says they have done work in the renovation of ooranis (huge wells) and artificial recharging of tube wells in Mudukulathoor taluka of Ramnathpuram district and also a few temple tanks in Kanyakumari.
The problem that was most visible in some of these talukas was the divide in the society, thanks to caste.
However, the NGO found that the other added problem was an accute water crisis in these areas of Tamil Nadu.
Vasudeo says they had to do something and there was nothing better than killing two birds with one stone.
They embarked upon their mission to improve the water situation in these areas and before commencing work, they told the villagers that the project would start only if they put at rest all their caste differences.
The villagers had no problem and agreed almost immediately. Anything to solve the water crisis.
Vasudeo points out that water shortage in most parts of the country is not due to the lack of rains. He says that the real problem lies with storage.
The NGO had conceived the idea of rainwater harvesting almost 16 years ago and it has become a big hit today.
Take for instance Ramnathpuram district. Here, it used to be a case of water water everywhere and not a drop to drink.
Surrounded by the sea, the only water available was salinated water. Vasudeo says this district does not have a water crisis at the moment.
The artificial recharging of tube wells has really worked well in this area.
Artificial recharging of tube wells, which is relatively a new concept, is more effective compared to rainwater harvesting.
For over two days the rainwater is collected and stored in ooranis. All the rainwater gets accumulated in the water-table, which is around 200 feet below and can be used any time.
This apart, the kendra is training over 1,200 panchayats in Tamil Nadu to undertake similar projects.
If implemented properly the water crisis can be solved to a large extent, feels Vasudeo.
The NGO is also open to invitations from other states to undertake similar projects and will only be too happy to help.
The key to the sucess of such projects is the cooperation of the government and the members of the village.
During all their projects, they have faced no problem from members of the villages. Instead, they had lent a helping hand in the implementation of the project, says Vasudeo.
According to him, conservation of water has to be a people's movement. Only if they are involved in such projects will they realise the importance of water.
At the kendra, they insist that people work alongside them in the project, so they will maintain it better.
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