People's initiative in water - Olavanna village in Kerala (India) - Reclaiming public lives - Transnational Institute

A people's initiative fights acute drinking water crisis in their village, involves panchayat and forces support of the state government in their mission.

This chapter from the book 'Reclaiming Public Lives' by Transnational Institute describes the case of a small village in the state of Kerala, India, which faced an acute drinking water crisis and describes how people’s initiative, together with the involvement of the local panchayat and the support of the state government, could successfully address the issue of scarce drinking water in the village.

All classes of people, irrespective of religion, caste, economic status or political affiliation, participated in such a venture and there were instances where the poor were subsidised by the affluent among the community. People’s unity was strengthened to a great extent and the importance of need for people’s participation in developmental interventions was emphasised.

The Olavanna initiative made an important contribution by lessening one of the major burdens women had to face all their lives for many years. The model demonstrated the importance of decentralisation in developmental activities. Olavanna proved beyond doubt that instead of major mega projects, micro level projects produced the expected results.

It was found that the model led to reductions in cost and made the effort more sustainable in the long run. The effort also made people more literate and informed about water related issues and empowered people to fight against the lobby of water exploiters.

The Olavanna model demonstrates that failing state run models and privatisation can be successfully replaced with people owned models of development, which can be more equitable and sustainable in the long run.

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