Sai Baba Sri Sathya Sai Baba

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Sri Sathya Sai Baba Service Activities

  Showers of grace
Sathya Sai Seva Organisation has quenched the thirst of 800 villages

The Week, May 26, 2004

When Bhagwan Sri Sathya Sai Baba announced last November that he would be supplying drinking water to parched Chennai, the people heaved a collective sigh of relief. They knew that this promise would be kept because in the past decade, the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation has achieved a phenomenal success in conceiving and implementing water supply schemes in south India.

Thanks to the Sai water project, over a million people in Anantapur have potable water at the turn of a tap

The maiden venture was the Sri Sathya Sai water supply project for Anantapur district in Andhra Pradesh. During his birthday celebrations in November 1994, Baba declared that, within a year, he would provide drinking water to 800 villages of the district in the drought-prone Rayalaseema region. Few thought it would be possible but, on November 18, 1995, the scheme was ready, and Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao dedicated it to the nation.

The project had been funded by the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust with unsolicited contributions from people worldwide. The work involved the laying of 2,500 kilometres of large pipes, construction of 18 balancing reservoirs, many summer storage tanks and 125 ground level reservoirs and the drilling of borewells. Starting the work in March 1995, Larsen & Toubro completed it in nine months, tapping a canal of the Tungabhadra for water. For Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, this assurance of drinking water throughout the year in the most drought-prone areas of the state was manna from heaven!

Thanks to the project, over a million people in Anantapur have potable water at the turn of a tap. This area was notorious for fluorosis, a disease that cripples because of excessive fluorine in drinking water. Now, it will be a bane of the past. What is most striking, however, is that so much has been achieved without building any huge dam that submerges forests and dislocates people. Contrast this with the Sardar Sarovar dam project which has run into several years and millions of dollars in cost and is yet to provide drinking water even to one town, but has submerged forests and villages and caused incalculable damage and misery to uprooted communities.

The Sai water project essentially consists of four schemes; one, a protected water supply scheme for areas around the Chitravati, Pennar and Hagari rivers involving infiltration wells, collection wells and associated pumping. In the case of the Chitravati, the balancing reservoir at Peddakotla covers 169 villages. Infiltration wells related to the other two rivers cover another 93 villages. Another 93 villages get water directly pumped from the Penna Ahobilam balancing reservoir and treated through a rapid sand filtration system.

A comprehensive water supply scheme taps the water flowing through the Tungabhadra high level canal and stores it in seven summer storage tanks, some of which are 100 acres in area; this takes care of 97 villages. Through deep borewells, construction of storage tanks and adequate pipeline networks, an additional 270 villages get protected water supply.

The water supply system was handed over to the government in 1996 and in a gesture of appreciation the postal department issued a stamp on the water project during Baba's birthday celebrations in 1999.
The success of the project brought a flood of requests from the public and the Sai Seva Organisation has subsequently taken up water supply projects for Medak and Mehboob-nagar in Andhra Pradesh and in certain areas of Karnataka at the government's request. These projects are all running on schedule. And peo-ple call them Baba's shower of grace.

Hiramalini Seshadri

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