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BABA: THE RESERVOIR OF GENEROSITY AND DRINKING WATER PROJECTS

R. Kondal Rao

A UNIQUE FEATURE OF THE Divine Mission of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba is massive humanitarian work which has benefited millions of people in all parts of the world. As part of this Mission, Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust under the benign guidance of Bhagavan established educational institutions and medical institutions and hospitals for the service of mankind. As an extension of this, Bhagavan desired to provide pure drinking water, which is important for the survival of mankind. The emphasis was on providing pure drinking water to the needy poor, who suffer due to chemical impurities in water such as excess fluoride.

As a first step in this direction, a National Fluorosis Seminar was held in Puttaparthi in 1994 under Bhagavan's guidance. Administrators, scientists, engineers and voluntary organisations representing different fields attended this seminar and discussed measures to be taken to provide pure drinking water to the people. Bhagavan gave the message that provision of pure drinking water was to be taken up as a mission as many parts of the State of Andhra Pradesh suffered from scarcity of water and excess fluoride in ground water. Anantapur is one of the districts affected by excess fluoride in ground water.

Bhagavan suggested to the then Prime Minister of India, late Sri P.V. Narasimha Rao during his visit to Prasanthi Nilayam on 22nd November 1994 at the time of the Convocation of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning about the need to take measures for providing pure drinking water to the areas in Rayalaseema region which suffered from scarcity of water. Bhagavan also suggested that rivers like Krishna, Tungabhadra should be harnessed to quench the thirst of Rayalaseema people and that major rivers should be interlinked. Bhagavan declared, "If there is constraint of funds, I will provide the funds, even up to 200 crore rupees for fulfilling the needs of the people".

Sri Sathya Sai Drinking Water Supply Project, Anantapur District

It is in this context that Bhagavan Baba initiated a massive drinking water supply project in Anantapur district in 1995. This is now known as Sri Sathya Sai Drinking Water Supply Project. I feel blessed for having had the great privilege of being closely associated with this project.

It was Bhagavan's direction that schemes with reliable sources of water should be taken up even if the cost is substantial. It was a challenging task to provide drinking water to about 730 villages suffering from scarcity and excess fluoride. Pipelines were laid to a length of about 2500 km within a span of about one year.

The project was taken up in right earnest. Bhagavan created a special team for its efficient and quick execution. The work was entrusted to Larsen & Toubro Limited, a company which had the expertise in construction and project management and most importantly, devotion to Bhagavan.

It is the good fortune of the people of Anantapur district that Bhagavan Baba provided sufficient funds for the execution of such a massive drinking water project which was completed in record time by His grace.

Bhagavan was keen that the quality of work should be of a high order and that details like sand bedding under the pipes should be taken care of. Bhagavan's generosity knows no bounds and His love is as vast as His creation. Bhagavan makes no distinction between rich and poor, urban and rural. During the execution of the schemes, many representations were made to Swami for providing drinking water to additional towns and villages. In response to such representations, Swami directed that towns like Anantapur, Dharmavaram should be included. The scope of Bhagavan's project got extended and the cost of the project was about 300 crore rupees.

Sri Sathya Sai Drinking Water Supply Project started in March 1995 on war footing and became a reality when Bhagavan inaugurated the first phase of the project covering about 150 villages. The drinking water scheme to Anantapur town was inaugurated by the then Prime Minister on 18th November 1995 and pumping main to the Peddakotia - Puttaparthi line by the then President of India on 23rd November 1995 (70th Birthday of Bhagavan). The entire scheme was commissioned after stabilisation period and pure drinking water was supplied to about 730 villages from November 1996. By Bhagavan's grace, drinking water is now being supplied to all these places without any dislocation. The magnitude of the project can be gauged from the following figures: No. of villages covered 731, population benefited 9 lakh (ultimate design 12 lakh), project cost about 300 crore rupees, length of pipes 2500 km, overhead reservoirs 268, ground-level reservoirs 149, summer storage tanks 8, infiltration wells 20, booster stations 56, borewells 280.

Out of the 731 villages, 451 are covered by comprehensive schemes and the balance 280 villages by individual borewells as sources. Water is taken from assured sources like Tungabhadra canals, Penna Ahobilam balancing reservoir, Chitravathi river and infiltration wells in Penna and Hagari rivers.

To ensure proper maintenance of the completed schemes, the Government of Andhra Pradesh has formed an autonomous board, namely, Sri Sathya Sai Drinking Water Supply Board. Bhagavan's grace continued even during the maintenance phase of the project. Bhagavan allowed the use of materials from the Central Trust for maintenance, which helped in the supply of drinking water to all the villages.

Sri Sathya Sai Drinking Water Project for Mahaboobnagar and Medak Districts

After completion of the project taken up in Anantapur district, Bhagavan desired to provide drinking water to the people of two drought-stricken districts in Telangana region. The result is the implementation of drinking water projects in Mahaboobnagar and Medak districts at a total cost of about 60 crore rupees covering nearly 150 villages in Mahaboobnagar district and 179 villages in Medak district.

Sri Sathya Sai Ganga Canal Project for Chennai

During the year 2002, Bhagavan announced that He would provide drinking water to Chennai, which had been suffering from acute shortage of drinking water with continuous droughts. The city's population is about 5 million now and the projected population for the year 2021 is 6.75 million. The water supply is presently maintained at about 250 mid (million litres per day) for the city. Various alternatives to provide drinking water to Chennai were examined and it was finally decided to facilitate provision of drinking water from Krishna river at a cost of about 200 crore rupees by improving Telugu Ganga Canal.

Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust, under the benign guidance of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. took up the scheme of improving the existing infrastructure of Kandaleru Poondi canal system through which the agreed quantum of 12 tmc of water at Tamil Nadu border could be conveyed. This scheme was not only to ensure full quantum of water being conveyed to Chennai city but also help irrigation of 3 lakh acres of land in Nellore and Chittoor districts of Andhra Pradesh. This was one of the most important schemes taken up on humanitarian grounds, which enabled supply of adequate drinking water to Chennai city, significant sections of its population being under the category of urban poor. The entire scheme was taken up at the request of Government of Andhra Pradesh to improve Kandaleru Poondi canal, which is now renamed as 'Sri Sathya Sai Ganga Canal by the Government of Andhra Pradesh as a  mark of respect to Bhagavan.

Sri Sathya Sai Drinking Water Supply Project for East and West Godavari Districts

Bhagavan's mission to provide water to the poor continues and as a result, a major project covering about 500 habitations in tribal areas and uplands of East Godavari and West Godavari districts has been taken up at a cost of nearly 100 crore rupees.

The upland and backward areas of East Godavari, which are mainly inhabited by tribals and poor people, depend mostly on borewells and streams for their drinking water needs. The borewells are getting dry and water levels are going down year after year due to excessive usage of ground water. Further, the natural stream waters are bacterialogically unsafe and require treatment. Further, borewell water contains excess iron in some pockets.

It is proposed to provide drinking water to about 220 habitations covering a population of about 2.30 lakh, with provision for expansion for another 1 lakh population in East Godavari district.  In West Godavari district, it is proposed to provide drinking water to its 220 habitations covering a population of 4.70 lakh. The surface water will be filtered through treatment plants and supplied to various habitations through pipelines. Two sources have been selected for drinking water. One is the Godavari river and the second Pamuleru, which is a tributary of Godavari and flows throughout the year.

The details given above concerning different projects convey the range and scope of work relating to drinking water supply by Bhagavan. There has been no parallel effort of this nature by any other charitable organisation. Bhagavan's is indeed a unique effort.

It is a great blessing of Bhagavan that I have had the opportunity of being associated with these projects as a designer and also as part of the execution team.

Sourced: Sanathana Sarathi pgs 361 to 364 November, 2005

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