19May2015

All is well, finally, with wells in Samra

Ninety kms from district headquarters in Alwar, Rajasthan, the water table is so low in seven villages represented by the Samra panchayat (village council) that families must depend on open wells to meet their water requirements. The dug wells are only deep enough to reach the water table, allowing groundwater to fill the bottom of the well. While the average water level in wells ranges between 5-10 meters, tube wells and submersibles draw water from 350-450-feet depth. Most government hand pumps have gone dry as water levels have decreased so drastically.

Moreover, most of the wells in the villages are in poor condition. Without a well platform, they look dilapidated and are surrounded by dirt and filth. Because villagers use the well water directly for drinking and domestic chores, woman and children in particular suffer high incidences of waterborne diseases. Unaware of the reasons for the resulting health issues, villagers resort to traditional alternative healing methods that may provide temporary relief but often worsen the condition.

Broken well structures are sites for deadly accidents; animals occasionally fall into the well and die. In 2009 a man named Gopi Ram Sharma was returning home after dark from visiting relatives in a neighboring village when he fell into a well that had a broken platform and protection wall. His body was only discovered a few days later when hit by a bucket as someone tried to draw water from the well. His death was a terrible shock to the people in Samra panchayat. Villagers began to live in fear of such accidents, but nothing was done to repair the well.

Finally, in 2015, with support from the community, the Jaldhara (stream of water) partnership project between Sehgal Foundation and Coca Cola Foundation, US, completed the long-pending repair of the well, along with 17 other wells. Citizens in Gopi Ram Sharma’s village came forward with additional contributions in gratitude for the new well platform. His family vowed, “We will now maintain the well platform. This way we will pay our homage to his soul.”

“All is now well with our wells,” said another villager, beaming.

Community-led action with facilitation from civil society and corporate partnerships made the difference in solving this local problem. This same type of project can be done by other villages where water structures to serve people become a cause of serious accidents. A simple and low-cost intervention, such as a well platform, can often be the solution.