Water wheels are lifting the weight off the shoulders of countless women in the drought-prone regions of Maharashtra.
The day-to-day life of Lakshmibai Neel from Porgaon village in Aurangabad was full of tedious household chores. The homemaker of a family of six, she’d get to work right from daybreak and would only rest her aching back close to midnight.
One of the most important and equally toiling chore was fetching water from the nearest well, which was over 5 miles from her house, in steel pots that she’d carry over her head and on her waist. At least 10 to 20 litres of water was required for the household and that would mean at least four to five trips to the well. She’d spend three to four hours and an incredible amount of energy to fulfil the most basic of needs- water.
However, with a simple innovation introduced in her village by the NGO Habitat for Humanity, her life became easier.
Water wheel, a cylindrical drum, can hold over 45 litres of water and can be rolled on the ground, eliminating the physical strain of carrying water containers.
Many more women like Lakshmibai have been helped by the water wheel. In 2015, Habitat India provided water wheels to 500 villagers in Aurangabad –Lakshmibai’s family was one of the families benefitted by the intervention.
“We have recognised water as one of the key areas where huge efforts need to be taken, especially to aid those who have to undergo hardships just to fetch water daily. There is a great paucity of water in India along with the lack of proper water supply in many villages. The problem is further compounded due to the situation of drought in many states in India. Carrying water is one of the most toiling tasks for rural women and we decided to offer a solution,” says Rajan Samuel, Managing Director, Habitat for Humanity India.
The water wheel makes it easy to fetch water from the nearest drinking water source. One need not carry the weight over their head instead it can be simply pulled or pushed. The water wheel also allows women to carry more water in one trip since each water wheel has the capacity to carry 50 litres.
The concept of the water wheel was developed in an attempt to improve the efficiency of water transport and storage across difficult terrains. In many villages in India, the women have to transport water for longer distances and the tedious process culminates into several health-related issues. The cylindrical plastic drum is made from food-grade, human-safe, high-density polyethylene, which has a capacity to hold 45 litres of water, three to five times more water than the traditional containers. It is fitted with a plastic or metal handle, which allows the user to roll it down the road, without having to life the weight.
“The results of the pilot project have been amazing. The water wheels have not only empowered women, but have also mobilised the villages. Water collection as a norm was relegated only to the women, but now the men have also understood that the burden must be shared. The village community has also taken cognizance of the health problems faced by women who had to carry heavy pots of water every day,” says Rajan.
So far, Habitat for Humanity India has provided over 3,000 water wheels in Aurangabad, Latur, Nanded, Osmanabad and Karjat regions of Maharashtra. The intervention has impacted the lives of 3,000 families.
Among such impacted families is that of SunandaKharate from Osmanabad, Maharashtra. Sunanda’shusband abandoned her a few days after their wedding, forcing her to return to her parents’ house. Though shaken by the incident, Sunanda was determined to stand on her own feet and partnered with Habitat India to build a permanent house for herself.
Due to water scarcity, Sunanda would have to fetch water enough to fulfil her household needs as well as for the construction work.She would travel about 1 km to fetch water.
However, after being provided with the water wheel, life has become easier for Sunanda and she is able to look after the construction with better involvement.
“Instead of doing multiple tedious rounds of collecting water, I can now easily fetch over 500 litres of water with the help of this water wheel,” she says.
The success stories of the water wheel reinforce the fact that even the simplest of innovations, when implemented the right way, can truly change lives.
To know more about Habitat for Humanity India, visit its website here.