|JKF provides clean drinking water through Rain Water Harvesting|
|Written by Ramesh|
|Friday, 15 June 2012 13:44|
Twenty households and three community centres in the village of Mangalagama situated in the Ampara District of the Eastern Province were the first recipients of Rain Water Harvesting tanks under John Keells Foundation’s latest sustainability related initiative.
Rainwater is the most pure form of water. If collected and stored properly, it can be used for all domestic purposes including drinking. Collection of rainwater is an effective method of reducing the problem of water shortage in areas where good quality fresh surface water or groundwater is lacking. This process will not only increase availability of ground water but would also reduce water bills, mitigate damage by flooding and pollution and save energy required for water treatment and transportation.
Mangalagama was selected as the site for the project launch based on its association with the Foundation’s Village Adoption Project whilst also serving as a supplier of cashew to Ceylon Cold Stores. A technical feasibility commissioned in the village confirmed that the village suffered from a severe water scarcity and that the majority of its population of 750 families who were farmers and Samurdhi holders had no permanent income throughout the year. Hence this village was found to have the need, suitability and feasibility to be provided rainwater harvesting facilities. The beneficiary households were selected according to such criteria as accessibility to national water supply, distance from nearest water source and suitability of the structure, particularly its roofing. The village temple, school and dispensary were provided with 20,000 Litre tanks on the basis of their central role as community centres whilst the twenty households were supplied with 5,000 Litre tanks.
Sites for rain water harvesting tanks were recommended to John Keells Foundation through the technical assessment conducted by the contractor, Practical Action, in collaboration with officials of the Mangalagama Farmer Organization. “Clean drinking water was always an issue for this community, especially during the dry season. During the initial assessments, I found that everyone in the community was enthusiastic about the idea of rain water harvesting tanks; they contributed to building the tanks as well. The recipients were grateful to John Keells Foundation, and people are fully committed to taking care of tanks given to them,” said G.G. Ajith, Secretary of Sri Magalarama Temple Society and chief village coordinator of the initiative.
The initiative was launched during a visit made by representatives of John Keells Foundation on 7th June 2012. A team comprising Ms. Nadija Tambiah, Head of CSR, Ms. Carmeline Jayasuriya, Manager, John Keells Foundation, Mr. Isuru Gunasekera, Project Champion for Community and Livelihood Development and several other representatives visited individual beneficiaries of the domestic tanks as well as the three community tanks which culminated with a ceremony held at AM/Mangalarama Maha Vidyalaya, Magalagama.
Speaking at the ceremony, Mr. Sirisena, the principal of Mangalarama Maha Vidyalaya, said “I thank John Keells Foundation for the support given throughout the years in helping to rebuild our community which was severely affected by the ethnic conflict. This CSR initiative of John Keells Foundation helps in solving a very pressing issue faced by the community: scarcity of water during the dry season. There have been instances where I have personally gone looking for drinking water for the students of my school. Even now, the well water which is available to us is not portable; the entire student population of 450 is reliant on a tube well. So these tanks will go a long way in helping us solve that issue.”
Speaking on behalf of John Keells Foundation, Ms. Carmeline Jayasuriya said, “The rain water harvesting initiative is an extension of the development work completed by the John Keells Group in the village, including the rehabilitation of the Mangalagama Tank, the extensive infrastructure development work carried out in this school and livelihood development initiated by Ceylon Cold Stores among the cashew farmers. We were very happy to partner the community of Mangalagama in supplying a sustainable means of procuring drinking water where water resources are scarce”, she said. Noting that the beneficiary families and the Mangalagama Farmer Organization had been actively involved in providing unskilled labour for the initiative, she went on to state that the Foundation will continue to support future village development activities focusing on capacity building and livelihood development.
One of the recipients of a domestic rain water harvesting unit is A. N. Siriyawathie, a 45-year old single woman who had lost her entire family except a younger brother during terrorist attacks on the village. The surviving brother who had proceeded to join the army had helped her build the house which she now lives in. The rain water harvesting tank will enable Siriyawathie to become more independent as she hopes to start a new farming venture: mushroom cultivation. “So many people have come here and heard my story, but this is the first time I have received something tangible. There are no words to describe what a blessing this tank is for me. I will look after this gift as if it were my life,” said an emotional Siriyawathie.
Previously, a community awareness programme on rain water harvesting had been conducted by the contractor at Mangalagama with the participation of the head monk of the temple, doctor attached to the village dispensary, vice principal of the school and representatives of the households selected for the initiative as well as the John Keells Group.