Posted in SBI YFI Fellowship

“Water, water, everywhere, nor a drop to drink”

Those famous words in S. T. Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is very much relevant and appropriate in large parts all over the world, thanks to over-exploitation of our environment: global warming, de-forestation, polluting and over-use of water sources, lack of ground water recharge options and many more.

As part of my one year on attempting to contribute in rural development as a fellow with the Youth For India, sponsored by SBI, I am working on health and hygiene aspects of salt pan workers in Vedaranyam, a prime salt producing centre. Extreme harsh conditions of heat, salt concentrations, long working hours and hard manual labour has created Chronic Dehydration for the salt pan labourers.

RO plant and water cans built with funds and training from USAID; Currently abandoned as no one is interested to take part in maintenance
RO plant and water cans built with funds and training from USAID in Arcottuthurai village; Currently abandoned as no one is interested to take part in maintenance
Another RO plant locked upas it is far away from the houses and no one is willing to provide support for water transport
Another RO plant locked up in Puthu Road village as it is far away from the houses and no one is willing to provide support for water transport

Excess of salt in ground water and lack of rains has made it very difficult for local populations to access good drinking water at homes too. The primary source of drinking water, from the Kollidam river, is both insufficient (4 pots/family; up to 2-3 times a week) and often not clean enough. Other sources are the hand pumps/wells/bore wells having mildly saline to extremely saline water; and bore wells of tobacco farms (though not saline, have high nicotine content).

On the event of the International World Water Day, I’m posting a collection of issues related to water unavailability that I found in this beautiful Vedararnyam.

The only functional RO plant; thanks to dedicated villagers who follow the training given and call up the maintenance team regularly
The only functional RO plant; thanks to dedicated villagers of Seruthalaikadu village who follow the training given and call up the maintenance team regularly

Overall, it is a sad picture of water unavailability. In my stint here, a lot of support from the NGO MSSRF’s staff at Vedaranyam has been very instrumental for me to understand the ground realities. A lot of work for providing good drinking water has been happening in all the 14 adopted villages with MSSRF’s involvement. Last week, a well was  constructed in a non-saline land by MSSRF to supplement the water from Kollidam dam that is provided by the government for the drinking purpose to Kovilthavu village.

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Inauguration of well constructed by MSSRF, after assessing the need with the participation of villagers of Kovilthavu village
A typical sight of water collection at a tap that caters to 3-5 households. Water comes maximum for an hour, up to 2 or 3 times in a week
A typical sight of water collection at a tap that caters to 3-5 households. Water comes maximum for an hour, up to 2 or 3 times in a week
Kids were posing for me before their late afternoon dip in the salty village pond. Swimming is their ultimate fun after coming home from school
Kids were posing for me before their late afternoon dip in the salty village pond. Swimming is their ultimate fun after coming home from school

N.B. – I am also striving to provide good drinking water in salt pans. I am being supported by Desolenator, a service from Innovation eXperience where I was working before joining SBI YFI. More on it in a later post.

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Posted in SBI YFI Fellowship

Major Activities by MSSRF at Vedaranyam

Joining the activities of the MSSRF office: helped me best to understand the place, its culture and people. Some of the activities supported by MSSRF:

1. Medical Camps: – team led by Capt. Dr. Rajan, our nurse – Mrs. Sussela and lab technician – Mr. Sivakumar; help in solving the difficulties to healthcare, posed by deficiency of transportation and financial issues.

nurse
Our nurse, Suseela doling out some health tips along with the medicines
A blood test... she is very scared
A blood test… she is very scared, but rest assured says the friendly Sivakumar

2. Agriculture:- Coconut Tree management and harvesting training, organic farming in homes and farms, floriculture – Nerium and Jasmine; improving incomes and social status and reducing the toxicity (nicotine) of ground water in farms where previously tobacco was grown.

Dr. Rajan imparting breathing and yoga lessons before the commencement of coconut tree climbing lessons
Dr. Rajan imparting breathing and yoga lessons to the participants before the commencement of coconut tree climbing lessons
Instructor training the participants; Lady winner of coconut olympics
Instructor training the participants                                                     Lady winner of coconut olympics
Rows and rows of rich pink Nerium flowers
Rows and rows of rich pink Nerium with the buds only

3. Revolving Funds: – utilized for all kinds of activities by each family in the village. Money disbursed after taking consensus from within the community.

Attentive villagers in a revolving fund meeting
Attentive villagers in a revolving fund meeting

4. Village Knowledge Centre: – where people gather to collect information, attend classes, have meetings etc.

Kids learning to videos provided by the Azim Premji Foundation; taught by the Knowledge worker Mr. Balachander
Kids learning to videos provided by the Azim Premji Foundation; taught by the Knowledge worker Mr. Balachander

5. Preservation of Flora: – creation and maintenance of Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest and Genetic garden for Halophytes

Saplings of Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest protected by the overgrowth of wild pines
Saplings of Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest protected by the overgrowth of wild pines
Genetic Garden of Halophytes
Genetic Garden of Halophytes
Posted in SBI YFI Fellowship

Making Ends Meet

Of the myriad jobs that people follow at Vedaranyam to keep their lives kicking, with or without the NGO and all that external support.

Tobacco saplings - injurious to health and environment
Tobacco saplings – injurious to health and environment
Open sea and lagoon fishing
Open sea and lagoon fishing
Women harvesting their only crop of paddy
Women harvesting their only crop of paddy
Salt pan work
Salt pan work
Catching white prawns from swamps around their hamlets
Catching white prawns from swamps around their hamlets
Lots and lots of groundnuts....mmm
Lots and lots of groundnuts….mmm
Fishing and Farming by Youth Group along the village ponds
Fishing and Farming by Youth Group along the village ponds
Rekha akka with her dried fish - Arcottuthurai
Rekha akka with her dried fish – Arcottuthurai