VIJAYAPURA: The proverb ‘old is gold’ often reminds us of the achievements of the bygone era – some even thousands of years into the past. Inspiring structures built by our ancestors stand tall even today, helping mankind the same way they did when they were constructed.
And bawadis or open wells of Vijayapura in North Karnataka are one such awe-inspiring structures whose revival has changed thousands of lives.
Till a year ago, Sumangala Katti from Khaja Nagar of Vijayapura was among hundreds of residents frustrated with the city corporation for releasing water once every 10 days. But with the revival of Sandal Bawadi — built during the Adil Shahi era (1490-1686), over a thousand houses are now getting water almost every day. The open well that remained filthy and unused for decades has become an endless source of water as residents get tap water from the bawadi at least two hours daily.
About a quarter km away, Tehmeena Bagwan, a resident of Sakaf Roza area, gets water supplied from another open well. Though small compared to the giant Sandal Bawadi, this well has been supplying water to the residents for over 15 years.
While two open wells of Sakaf Roza were revived in 2008, Sandal Bawadi was revived about a year ago. Nisar Ahmed, the waterman appointed by the Water and Sewerage Board to release water from the wells, said, “These three open wells are working efficiently and have solved the water crisis here.”
Man behind the initiative
These three wells supply water to over 3,000 houses in Ward No. 28 of Viajayapura. “While we are supplying water from Sandal Bawadi close to 1,000 houses, it has the potential to cater to at least 2,000 more houses as it is a huge 75x75 feet open well. We have installed two 10 HP pumps to draw water,” said Kaisar Inamdar, 54, the man behind reviving the three wells.
The social activist has taken the lead in reviving ancient and unused open wells of Sakaf Roza and nearby areas which still have seven open wells yet to be revived.
Inamdar and his team spearheaded the work of reviving the two open wells at Sakaf Roza in 2008. “Our locality was constantly facing a water shortage. We came to know about two open wells located in a private property that were not in use for decades. We convinced the owners to allow us to revive the wells. It was a gamble, but it paid off,” he said.
Reviving these open wells, filled with filth and garbage, was a formidable task, particularly one well that had filthy mud and heaps of garbage around it. Accessing the narrow well required manual labour, as machinery couldn’t navigate through the confined space, Inamdar explained. “Only two persons could enter to clear the well. It took nearly three months to remove the filth and allow fresh water to collect,” he added.
Following the successful cleaning of both wells, municipal authorities were approached to install submersible pumps and to lay the pipeline throughout the ward. Approximately 500 public taps were installed, providing water to nearly 2,000 households. “It has been over a decade, and these two wells have never gone dry,” Inamdar said.
The next challenge
Fifteen years after his first successful initiative, Inamdar took up the challenge of reviving the much bigger Sandal Bawadi in 2023. Unlike the two smaller wells which have no steps to enter and have narrow openings, Sandal Bawadi is much bigger. With the help from volunteers, garbage dumped in the well for decades was removed. “We have not only cleaned Sandal Bawadi, but covered the surroundings with tin sheets and installed a gate to prevent people from dumping garbage,” he said. They now plan to install at least three more 10 HP pumps with the help of Vijayapura City Corporation and Water and Drainage Board to augment the water supply.
“Sandal Bawadi alone can supply water to at least 5,000 houses. Efforts are being made to install more pumps and draw pipelines. We have requested the authorities to construct an overhead tank and set up a water treatment plant,” Inamdar said.
He said ancient wells across Vijayapura should be revived as they have the potential to significantly alleviate the persistent drinking water problem here. “Ward No. 28 has at least seven ancient open wells. If revived, they can supply water to at least two more wards. Besides, Vijayapura has hundreds of such open wells which have the potential to supply water to a significant population. At some places where one doesn’t get water even after drilling borewells for over 200 ft, these ancient open wells still have perennial water sources. They are just 15 to 20 ft deep,” he said.
Inamdar believes that instead of investing large sums on bigger projects, these ancient wells should be revived to solve the city’s drinking water problem significantly.