Author: Salesian Missions

Publication Date: October 04, 2018

Our Clean Water Initiative is Changing Lives in India

In the Ahmednagar district of India’s Maharashtra state, several years of insufficient rainfall have all but depleted the region’s groundwater reserves — which means that thousands of people struggle to access safe drinking water. Today, thanks to a Salesian-sponsored “Water for All” project, conditions in two rural communities have dramatically improved.

Until now, families living in Marathwadi and Kolhewadi — two of Ahmednagar’s nearly 350 villages — have felt particularly “miserable and helpless” because of the drought, explains Father George D’abreo of Bosco Gramin Vikas Kendra: a Salesian-led organization focused on improving the capacity and sustainability of the area’s tribal and rural communities. “Their agricultural productivity was rapidly declining, their cows were not producing enough milk, people were migrating, and children were suffering,” he says. Recently, 60 children were rushed to the hospital after drinking contaminated tap water at their own school!

Because these villages are not located near reservoirs, Marathwadi and Kolhewadi do not benefit from water routed directly via local canals. Instead, they rely on water tanks that are often unsanitary, and which have caused dozens of communicable disease outbreaks throughout the region. In order to avoid this, many villagers sought potable water elsewhere: a task that disproportionately fell on women and girls.

“By tradition, females in India are responsible for domestic duties such as cooking, cleaning and caring for children,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions. “In rural areas, they also help grow crops and tend livestock. This means their need for water is significant, and their responsibility for finding it, pressing.”

Until Salesian missionaries brought “Water for All” to Marathwadi, for example, 55-year-old Gangabai would travel more than three miles, round-trip, to collect water every day. Now freed from this all-consuming task, she can use her time more productively and her feet, back and neck are no longer aching from the physical effort of collecting water.

“Water for All” engaged local villagers in de-silting and re-charging local wells; constructing two 10,000-liter water collection tanks; and laying pipelines to Marathwadi and Kolhewadi. Residents provided the technical expertise and installation labor, and generous donors to our Clean Water Initiative financed their efforts.

And the impact of this work has been tremendous. In addition to Gangabai, more than 1,200 men, women and children can now rely on a local source of clean water for drinking and agriculture. According to Fr. George, this has already improved the health of the villagers and has allowed the women and children to devote more time to school and family needs.

“Water for All” is a mission for us in Marathwalda,” he says. “It has renewed the spirits of the people in these villages.”

As Gangabai happily exclaims, “The new well has changed my life!”

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