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Monday, July 25, 2011

Rural Livelihoods and Sustainable Living: Case-63: THE BATTLE FOR WATER IN AINAMUKKALA VILLAGE!

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Just as Baghiratha struggled to bring the mighty Ganges down to earth the women in Ainamukkala village fought a water war and strived for two years to get water to their village. This is a rare story of collective

Ainamukkala village is located close to Dornala mandal in Prakasam district. For two years the village did not get any rain. There was hardly a blade of grass on the parched earth, all the birds had fled and all the cattle sold by the farmers who were unable to feed them.  This intense drought had never before been
seen by the people in the village. The nearest borewell with water was in the fields of the neighbouring village two kilometers away. The five hand pumps in the village had dried up. For drinking water there were two taps but the water supply was intermittent and unpredictable. And when the water came, it came in a thin stream resulting in hours of waiting for the people. Not all those who stood in long queues managed to get any and this resulted in street fights among the villagers. Nobody seemed to care. The government officials did not bother to do anything to solve this problem.

Then the Andhra Pradesh Rural Livelihoods Project started in the area and the Society for Nation Integration through Rural Development (SNIRD), an NGO, was appointed as the project implementing agency. SNIRD focused on a long term and sustainable solution to the problem of drinking water in the village. They looked at the shortage of drinking water as an opportunity to educate the community on the importance of conserving water. The meetings with villagers focused on the ways to improve groundwater and how they could collectively work towards this goal. To solve the immediate problem of drinking water, about 100 women carrying empty pots marched to offices of the MRO, MPDO and MPP.
They requested the officials to visit their village and personally see and understand the situation and they insisted that they would not leave the place until the officials promised to provide water to the village.

The government took the matter seriously.  Though the project cost was a little higher than normal, the government accepted because of the strong protests by the women. A borewell was drilled in Chinna Gudipadu village located 8 km away from Ainamukkala. A pipeline was laid to carry water from the borewell to a mini tank in Ainamukkala, and through it to the taps located in all the major streets. The work of the pipeline was completed in six months. The credit for accomplishing this feat went to the women of the village.

The collective effort of the women to get drinking water to the village had a profound impact on social mobilisation for the watershed programme. All the men and women of the village came forward and participated actively.  They undertook rain water harvesting through pits in front of their houses, built check dams and tanks in their fields. The inspired work of Ainamula village also influenced the neighboring village of Timmapur where the women followed their example and started water conservation and management initiatives and lobbied with the government to resolve their problem of drinking water.

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