Disparity in tea estates holds true in terms of access to water. Nationally, 12% of Sri Lankans must travel off site to retrieve water. This number rises to 40% within tea estates.
Previously, Keliwatte residents obtained untreated water from an open stream. A Sarvodaya Rural Technical Service ‘Needs Assessment Survey’ revealed an alarming rate of young children had contracted diseases such as gastrointestinal distress and parasites as a result of drinking unsafe water.
The entire community suffered from the unsafe conditions caused by poor-quality drinking water. Those most vulnerable to water-borne diseases are children and the elderly. Parents’ absence from work plus fighting off parasites and digestive problems caused major financial setbacks for families who lived paycheck to paycheck. Children’s absence from school caused them to fall behind in their studies. Parents, in turn, missed more work to care for ill children, driving them deeper in debt.
Villagers faced annual water shortages during dry seasons, putting their crops, livelihoods and health at risk. This vicious cycle compounded the already crippling poverty faced by the community. Keliwatte residents joined together and identified water as their number one collective concern, and reached out to Sarvodaya for support.
The Keliwatte Gravity Water Supply Scheme (GWSS) Project serves the community in two critical capacities-
- Improving basic infrastructure
- Unifying and empowering the community
Accessible, clean water improves quality of life for Keliwatte residents by:
- Reducing disease transmission
- Improving general health
- Improving educational performance for children
- Improving safety for women who are vulnerable to assault while fetching water
- Reducing personal economic loss due to water borne illness
- Providing consistent and accessible water supply for home gardens
The water system is financially self-sustaining. Maintenance is managed by two designated caretakers who have been formally trained by Sarvodaya Rural Technical Services. Families that use the water system pay a small monthly fee used to pay caretakers’ wages and maintenance expenses.
The Keliwatte Project promotes healthy, sustainable, engaged communities that motivate and mobilize typically under-represented populations like children, women and minorities.
Sarvodaya USA, Sarvodaya Sri Lanka, and Keliwatte residents graciously thank Buddhist Global Relief for their donation that made this project possible.
More photos are available in this Facebook album.