Safe Water Network gives villagers in India a push toward a better future
By David Funkhouser
At a village meeting in Rajasthan, India, Ravindra Sewak of Safe Water Network
presented a challenge: We can help you build a new cistern that will improve
your water supply and your health, but you will have to pay for some of it, and
take over and maintain the system.
The villagers balked. In this desert land where just a few inches of water fall
each year, poverty rules. Typical annual incomes range from $1,000 to $1,600.
Women and children can walk several kilometers each day to fetch water for
drinking, cooking and cleaning. Dysentery is so common, Sewak said, it’s not
even considered a disease anymore.
With so few resources, how could they pay for this, and handle this new work? “I
had to leave at one point,” Sewak said, describing how he walked out of the
meeting to let the residents ponder the question before them. “You have to make
them believe that they have to maintain it. They need a sense of ownership and
willingness to pay so they can see the long-term vision and take responsibility. …
They need to contribute to make this work.”