Shahapur, July 02, 2020: ‘Make the worst crisis as an opportunity to provide solutions for the unsolved problems’, is the Mantra that Vivekanand Seva Mandal’s (VSM) team working at a remote village in Shahapur taluka in Thane district followed assiduously. The outcome surprised not only villagers but even them!
During the crisis of COVID-19, the hardships are hitting every person and every community very hard. VSM volunteer network provided more than 4,700 underprivileged individuals with the essential grocery items. However, the voluntary organisation, inspired by Swami Vivekananda’s Seva philosophy, continued its toil in other Seva projects during this hunger-relief work.
Another of our seva project team, providing quality education for over past 7 years at a residential school for tribal students, run by Rashtriya Shikshan Sanstha in a tribal hamlet of Chindhyachi Wadi, resolved to address a major problem faced by this school year after year. This problem was water scarcity!
The VSM team formed a professional expert team and did the exemplary work of water augmentation, while obtaining requisite permissions, maintaining all the social distancing norms during the peak of COVID-19 pandemic. Here is the recap of this inspiring seva journey:
From Scarcity to Abundance
The school is situated on a hilly region and storing water there for the full year was impossible. There are around 400-450 students and between them only two bore wells. This water is hardly enough for even drinking. The students were facing issues related to hygiene due to lack of water. Many times, the parents of the girls do not seek admission as the hygienic loos are wanting.
The reputable school provides good nutritious meals to the students. But students need to walk a lot every day to do their daily morning toiletry activities due to lack of water in the school campus. Once a week they go to launder their clothes to nearby water sources. This is a waste of time for students and involves risk.
The school on their part was trying hard to preserve the meagre water as much as possible, but that was not sufficient. A scientific approach was necessary to move from scarcity to abundance of water resource. Here came to help the time-tested skills of management of efficient Seva Projects by Vivekanand Seva Mandal, Dombivli.
The project was conceived before COVID-19 pandemic begun and all the approvals came in by March 30th. But by then the lock down had begun. There were many big or small challenges to take this project to its logical outcome.
Project ‘Jala Sampada’
India CSR program by CGI Information Systems and Management Consultant Pvt Ltd , one of the largest IT and business consulting services firms in the world, is supporting the educational and health initiative along with VSM at this school since 2019 through their HELP CSR initiative. During the inauguration of HELP, which was done by CGI Leadership team, the team understood the severity of water scarcity problem and willingly agreed to solve this problem. We are thankful for the trust shown by CGI in VSM and extending their support to fund this initiative and standing strong during the odd times. For CGI, CSR is not only corporate citizenship but it is one of their values they are living up to the mark.
VSM gathered a team of experts who knew how to solve such problems scientifically. Dr. Umesh Mundlye, Director at OIKOS Water Management Pvt Ltd. and a renowned watershed development expert agreed to design, procure, and construct the water augmentation systems for the school campus. Nikhil Chaudhary, an architect turned project consultant was roped in as a project management consultant. Vinod Deshpande, secretary of VSM acted as a coordinator for the project. CGI’s CSR team was involved throughout the execution and recommended the prioritization of the solution implementation.
Vinod Deshpande stated the goal of the project: “Our target is to preserve approximately to 1 crore litre water and now we have achieved around 55 lakhs of water conservation. In the second phase, we will be doing need-based water resource management by using biological methods like planting trees. In second phase, we will achieve 45 lakh litres more availability of water conservation.”
Dr Mundlye conducted a detailed survey and recommended solutions for water conservation in the school premises. One of the recommendations was artificial recharging technique to replenish the existing 2 borewells by rooftop rainwater harvesting system. Other recommendation was to harvest rain water by constructing underground bund and increase the supply of water well and supporting natural aquifers.
The overall rainfall in this region is high, but the water retention is very less due to the steep slope and hard rock hilly terrain . Now, we have started using the school terrace for doing roof water harvesting and recharging the bore well in a scientific way was also done.
Dr Umesh Mundlye said “Along with the roof top rainwater harvesting, and the bore well recharge, we managed to conserve around 22 lakh litres of water. We have refilled the two bore wells and made provision for the third as well.” Another recommendation to ramp up subsurface bund (10 X82X1 ft dimension) 100 meters away from well, resulting in additional supply of 30 lakh litres of water.
VSM will also be measuring the actual rainfall this year and will also gauge the water consumption to know the gap and the viability fixes. We will fix the water meters to get the correct data in order to quantify the same.
There were many challenges abound on this project, that were overcome by the project team. The availability of labor and material during the COVID-19 situation was a big issue. Another challenge was to get the material transported to site; this came 4-5 days late. Also, getting the skilled labour for the work turned out to be little expensive due to labour shortage.
Also, the conveyance of VSM project team from Dombivli to Chindhyachi Wadi (distance is approximately 100 Kms, to-and-fro) was a challenge. Luckily, village Gram Panchayat gave us the permission to work during lockdown period and team got passes to travel basis this permission. The school is at the outskirts of the village, so the villagers also supported work by the labour at site.
The next level of challenge came from cyclone Nisarga, which brought early rains, thereby creating disruption in the work. The underground Bandhara (bund or a micro dam), that was to be built to preserve water, was to be done under the farmland belonging to a private farmer. As the rains came early, the farmer wanted his land for irrigation early, so we had to complete the work in two days and handover the farmland back to the farmer.
Another unexpected challenge came up in the form of a change in topography and change in levels. Farmer leveled his land using earth mover just before the work was to begin but after the measurements of the work were taken. It changed the slope calculations. The designs and provisioning had to be altered keeping this new level in mind. It was not an easy task, but it was completed due to the dedication of the project team.
But as all VSM project teams follow the cardinal rule that challenges are to be overcome to move forward, the current team also completed the work in the face of these multiple challenges. Because of this project, the water availability in the campus will be extended by approximately 3- 4 months now. Hence, this will help fulfill the water requirement during summer as well.
We hope that from this year, the students will be able to concentrate more on their studies as they do not have to walk for fulfilling their water related requirements. VSM has once again successfully solved another problem even during the COVID- 19 situation.