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10/18/2016
WHEN THE MONSOONS DON’T COME

They say water is life. And that’s especially true right now in central India, where millions of people are suffering from one of the worst droughts in decades. In response to this crisis, terre des hommes and DACHSER are providing water to ten villages, shoring up development goals that have already been obtained, and improving living conditions for children and adolescents for their long-term well-being.
Maharashtra-water-truck
In today's aid project Terre des hommes and DACHSER are focusing on water supply infrastructure within the district of Latur.

In recent years, the monsoon rains, which bring badly needed moisture from June to September, have dramatically decreased. After four consecutive years of drought, the water table in the central Indian state of Maharashtra has fallen by 215 meters. The situation is already desperate in 13 of India’s 29 federal states: if action is not taken, the subcontinent will only have half of the water it needs in 2030.

Maharashtra-carrying-water
Fetching water instead of school.

No rain, no school

The current dry spell is driving up prices for seeds, fertilizers, water, and animal feed—which is ruining many farmers. In 2015, over 3,000 committed suicide in despair over enormous debt caused by such factors as an inability to obtain loans for seeds. For rural children—and girls especially—the lack of rain usually means an end to schooling: instead, they have to spend hours looking for water in the blazing heat or standing in line at one of the few remaining wells for just a couple liters of water. Dehydration is also causing many to suffer headaches, dizzy spells, and trouble concentrating.

That is why DACHSER is supporting another aid project, this time focusing on water supply infrastructure. The children’s relief organization terre des hommes is spearheading this effort through its local partners in Latur, an especially hard-hit region in the central Indian state of Maharashtra.

DACHSER and terre des hommes have been powerful advocates for the rights of children and adolescents in India for over ten years. Their focus has been on girls and young women, and providing access to education and training. The current drought threatens the very existence of the people there, and therefore the long-term project work as well. Only by securing fundamental living conditions is it possible for children and adolescents to remain in school and remain at least somewhat in contact with the rest of society. This in turn has consequences for the future viability of the entire region.

Emergency relief efforts to provide drinking water allow for long-term project work

“In addition to immediate emergency relief efforts to provide drinking water from tanker trucks, the mission of our new project in Maharashtra is to help people help themselves over the long term. That’s true of all our work with terre des hommes in India, Nepal, Namibia, and Brazil,” explains DACHSER CEO Bernhard Simon. “All of the work is interwoven: we want to provide access to safe drinking water, create water storage options, supply healthcare, and offer educational opportunities and outreach work on the rights of villagers and water-conserving cultivation methods. Lastly, we also want to distribute seeds to especially needy families to guarantee proper nutrition.”

The goals of the project are ambitious: “We aim to ensure the long-term survival of 1,887 families affected by drought in ten villages within the district of Latur in the federal state of Maharashtra,” says Ingrid Mendonca, Regional Coordinator South Asia at terre des hommes. These households will be provided with access to safe drinking water. Ten catch basins can now be used to store valuable monsoon rainwater and meet their water needs. In addition, the villagers, who are suffering from dehydration, in some cases severely, will have access to physical exams and medical treatment.

The true goal is sustainable outreach. Villagers will attend civil rights workshops so that in the future they can seek aid themselves from the government of India, which bears ultimate responsibility. At the same time, local partners of terre des hommes are working with farmers to model alternative, water-conserving cultivation methods. The aim is to replace short-term, profit-based monocultures (e.g., sugarcane) that hog water resources with traditional, diversified crops.

Maharashtra-sanctuaries
“Sanctuaries” will be created for studying and playing.

Taking charge of the future

Finally, “sanctuaries” will be created for children and adolescents where they can spend time, study, and play during the day. Workshops will provide information about water storage methods, water-conserving cultivation methods, and environmentally responsible practices. In sum, Bernhard Simon says that 1,000 children and adolescents will take an active role in conserving water at the community level: “Only those who can take charge of their future will even have a future” is his firm belief.

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