BENGALURU: Bengalureans have reason to be grateful to this community, which is quietly ensuring this water-scarce city doesn’t go dry. These unsung water heroes who belong to the Mannu Vaddar or Raja Bhovi community, dig wells and also work on recharge wells, which keep the groundwater replenished.
Well-digging is not just about digging the ground with machines and letting the water spring. It is a tough job which requires gumption to go deep down under, sometimes even 30 feet. At those depths, there is a dip in oxygen levels and one might even die. The skill also needs presence of mind, which of course comes with experience.
Chinna Muniyappa (55), who hails from the same community and is a star water harvester, has dug around 1,500 wells in ten years across Karnataka. He is also one of the top water harvesters in the country.
Muniyappa inherited the well-digging skill from his father and has taught it to the other members of the community. There are 25 members in his family who dig wells for a living. However, he does not get many projects like before. “People don’t opt for open wells anymore. So now we take up digging for rainwater harvesting units and recharge wells in new and old buildings. I and my 10-member team take up the job,” he says.
The demand goes down during summer. “We have a tough time during summer. However, most of us have other jobs like contracting and plumbing, which help us sustain our livelihood,” he says.
Mohan, another well-digger, has been doing this for 20 years now.
“I have dug around 100 wells. We don’t get calls to dig wells anymore. People rarely call us, and if they do, they are mostly from villages. In the city, most people opt for recharging wells. I also take up plumbing work, now much in demand. But when I get a call to dig wells, I take it up,” he says.
Mohan, who hails from Chittoor district, Andhra Pradesh, has travelled across South India to dig wells. He moved to Karnataka 20 years ago and lives in Sarjapur.
With many people now opting for rain water harvesting, these well-diggers have a new option to look at — recharge wells and rainwater harvesting units.
Shubha Ramachandran, water consultant at Biome Environmental Solutions, says these well-diggers have a large role to play in maintaining the water table.
“In the early 1990s there were many houses that had open wells. But with the Cauvery water coming into homes, the demand for open wells started to fall. With the increasing demand for water, people started opting for borewells. As a result, the groundwater started to deplete. That is when people started looking at the option of recharge wells. The wells help raise water table, and thus the groundwater level,” she says.