Water, the Elixir of life
Anantapur District in which Puttaparthi is located, is arid and drought-prone. Ground water is scarce, and where available, has an unacceptable level of flouride that causes bone deformities and dental disorders. For decades, the villagers of this District faced continual hardship in getting good drinking water, and it seemed as if there was no one to listen to their woes, until Baba came to their rescue in 1994. Unable to bear the agony of tens of thousands of poor villagers, Baba gave a simple directive to the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust. He said in effect: "Do all that you can to provide safe drinking water throughout the year, to as many people in as many villages as possible, in the shortest possible time, no matter what the cost and the difficulty."
Work started in March 1995 the year of the seventieth Birthday, and by November most of the work was over. With much joy, the then President felt privileged to take part in the inaugural functions. Later, Baba gifted the entire project to the people of Andhra Pradesh as a token of his infinite Love.
Baba's drinking water projects is benefitting about two million people in five districts of Andhra Pradesh at a total cost of about Rs. 500 crores.
Anantapur was just the beginning and thereafter, a string of drinking water projects have followed, starting with projects in the northern Districts of Medak and Mahabubnagar. After that came the unparalleled and amazing Chennai Water Project. The city of Chennai, formerly Madras, was experiencing acute drinking water shortage, thanks to the repeated failure of the Monsoon. Millions were suffering and Baba responded in a dramatic fashion.
On 19th January, 2002, Baba was in Bangalore to attend the first Anniversary of the Bangalore Super Speciality Hospital. And there, in the midst of his Discourse, he took everyone by surprise by declaring:
A panoramic view of the Summer Storage Tank in Anantapur.
"Today, I have made a new resolve. Madras is suffering from acute shortage of drinking water. The rich can buy water sold by the tanker services but what about the poor? They have to depend upon rain water that has collected in puddles and ditches, thus spoiling their health. I have therefore decided to work towards bringing drinking water to Madras, no matter how difficult and costly the task is. This wish of mine will fructify without fail. Success always springs from deep conviction."
The drinking water project for Anantapur District was started in March 1995, and by the time of Baba's 70th Birthday in November 1995, most of the project was completed. Mr. Narasimha Rao inaugurated the huge Summer Storage Tank in Anantapur on 18th November, while President Dr. Sharma inaugurated the Project as a whole five days later. After the Project was completed, the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust operated the entire water works for over a year. On 11th October 1997, Baba gave it all away as a gift to the people of Andhra Pradesh. Among other things the Project involved laying over 2000 kms of pipeline.
A canal had been constructed earlier to bring water from the Krishna River to Chennai, but it was in a rather dilapidated condition. On Baba's instructions, the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust completely rejuvenated the canal using modern technology, at a cost of about Rs. 200 crores. The entire work was completed in a year, and water finally started flowing towards Chennai on Baba's birthday in 2004. At last, after waiting for years, the people of Chennai got much-needed relief.
Never the one to rest, Baba is now busy bringing drinking water from River Godavari to over five hundred villages in East and West Godavari Districts, with a population of about half a million, a good many of them tribals. It is expected that the project would be completed by April, 2006.
The enormity of the contribution made by the various drinking water projects executed by Baba's Trust is highlighted by the fact that in the last one decade, the Trust has gifted away all these systems free, bringing benefit to about ten million people! For comparison, it may be noted that the population of Belgium is about 10.3 million, the population of Hungary is about 9.8 million, and the population of Sweden is about 8.9 million. There is no other charitable trust anywhere that can claim a comparable record.
Shri. P. V. Narasimha Rao Prime Minister of India 18th November, 1995
Statistics show Anantapur District to be a very dry one. Moreover, in many places, the ground water is not fit for drinking. I have been the Minister-in-Charge of this District, and I know how difficult it is to work here. It is our good fortune that by Baba's Grace, good drinking water flows in a place where there was hardly any.
Shri. N. Chandra Babu Naidu Chief Minister, Andhra Pradesh 11th October, 1997
The Project was started in March 1995. Since then, spending Rs. 300 crores, drinking water has been provided to 731 villages covering a population of nearly a million people. All this work ought to have been done by the State and the Central Governments. But it was done single-handed by Bhagavan Baba.
Sri Sathya Sai Baba 11th October, 1997
I am always ready to help you and to serve you. You may belong to any village or any District, or even any State for that matter. I do not have any feeling of difference-religious, regional or national. I do not go by the positions of people, nor the place to which they may belong. All are the same to me, and I serve all equally.
One of the collection wells of the Godavari Drinking Water Project. Water drawn through this well would be filtered and purified before distribution. The river may be seen in the background.
Baba's Godavari Project will benefit lakhs of tribals, who till now have had no access to safe water.
Sri Sathya Sai 80th year of Advent