No more miserable summers for people in Kottapuram as an innovative roof water harvesting system revolutionizes lives on this Kerala coast.
For all her life, the summer months had been miserable for Ramani Dasan and her family in a village by the Arabian Sea in Thrissur district. Water surrounds her village in southern Indian Kerala state, a land known for its torrential southwestern monsoon. But finding enough drinking water during summer was a challenge for Dasan. “All the members of the family” used to be “fully engaged in collecting water from public taps,” Dasan recalls. Her family had frequent fights with neighbours at the municipal tap where water appeared only every alternate day, that too just for a few hours.
It was during that time Dasan was invited to a class on rain harvesting system conducted by the Kottapuram Integrated Development Society (KIDS). And that changed life for her and other villagers, a smiling Dasan said standing near her water harvesting tank. “Now, after the rains, we have plenty of fresh drinking water available in our own home. Today, we use the water from the rain water harvesting tank for almost all the domestic purposes.” Many other villages in the district resound with similar testimonies making roof water-harvesting project a huge success.
Kerala has 590-kilometres of sea coast, many rivers and innumerable other water bodies but faces severe drinking water shortage. This is despite it receiving an average annual rainfall of 3000 mm. And it was to meet this challenge that KIDS began implementing “the Roof Water Harvesting” (RWH) through Ferro Cement Technology in 2003, the International Year for Freshwater. KIDS began with conducting awareness programmes on the need to do rainwater harvesting, said Fr. Johnson Panketh, KIDS director. Initially, it was a challenge “to convince people on the need for harvesting rain water and that rain water can be used for drinking even after a couple of months since harvesting,” Fr. Panketh says. The success of the awareness and sensitization programmes was clear when the people began to organise themselves to form core teams to engage directly in this big venture. Special training was given to the core team members that included masons. The trained core team members conducted detailed field visits and the more deserving people were selected to be beneficiaries of the project. Fr Panketh says. What is unique about the programme was its success in empowering women. Women masons who came forward to construct rainwater-harvesting systems were given training and were engaged for construction. And they built 120 rain water-harvesting tanks of different capacities: 7000, 6000 and 5000 litres. Simultaneously, KIDS also continued to conduct training for masons and awareness programmes for different sections of society. The major highlight of the programme was the full participation of the people in almost all the villages, say the organizers. Appreciation for the programme was not far behind. The Kerala state government declared KIDS as the official agency for training women masons under Kudumbasree, a state-sponsored poverty eradication programme that empowers hundreds of thousands of women across the state. A systematic and organized monitoring of the programmes is one of the vital reasons for the success of the project throughout the district. KIDS has formed a professional team to monitor and evaluate the programmes under the rainwater harvesting systems’ project, Fr Panketh says. As the villagers reaped the fruits of the programme, many organizations, schools and colleges came requesting for RWH systems. And that made the venture friendlier to the public. Now, the local Mahila Mandal (women’s group) and other self-help groups are assisting the KIDS coordinator and supervisor in implementing the scheme successfully. The programme has also seen members coming forward with whatever contributions they could make, be it cash, materials or free labour. And it has further taken the programme to several households and institutions of Thrissur district. The enthusiasm shown by the people due to the effectiveness of the RWH systems is the main indicator of the success of the project, the KIDS officials say. Since the project was started in the International Year for Freshwater 2003, it was of great relevance and use to the community. As many as 120 families and a number of institutions now have self sufficient and sustainable mechanism for drinking water as a result of this project, even as many other parts of state continue to report severe shortage of drinking water during summer months. This is a model replicated by hundreds and has been proved to be a great success in this decade to fight against the scarcity of fresh water. “Let this initiative serve as a helping hand to the communities, especially the vulnerable sections to find a way to ensure good water in their life,” says Fr. Panketh. Says Dasan: “Since we know the preciousness of water, we take utmost care in utilizing water most effectively. We are really thankful to KIDS and its staff for their valuable support. We wish them the very best in all their activities.”
Drinking Water: A Real Pleasure Name: Rama Sadanandan Address: Valyakkal House Methala, Thrissur District, Kerala I am a mason and have been working on small construction projects. But for the last couple of months, I was in serious financial trouble due to insufficient work. I have two school-going children. It was a great challenge to meet the expenses for their education, until I joined the core team of KIDS for the construction of Ferro Cement Tanks. I was selected as the member after a brief interview that evaluated my interest and competency in this field. We were given special training and sent to different localities for the construction of Ferro Cement Tanks for which we got reasonable wages. This was a great relief for my family. My family was also given a rainwater harvesting system by KIDS that took care of drinking water problems at home. It gives me immense joy to say that my family has benefited much from the implementation of the Ferro Cement Tank programme. We are also much satisfied that we could help our neighbours with good drinking water in the drought periods. It is really a pleasure to see that drinking water is now available all the year round. I also have sufficient job in the construction of Ferro Cement Tanks in different parts of the district. PHOTO: NETTING A SUCCESS: Enthusiastic women masons get ready to fix structure for a Ferro Cement Tank.