For as long as anyone can remember, Saja Pahad has been dealing with severe water shortage. This small village in Chhattisgarh, India has only two wells available, and locals were barely able to secure enough water to feed their cattle, let alone irrigate their crops.
Villagers didn’t know what to do, and the government ignored their plight until one resident took matters into his own hands.
Then 15-year-old Shyam Lal took it upon himself to solve his village’s water problem. By identifying a spot in a nearby forest, he decided to dig a pond to collect rainfall that could then be used by the entire village. Lal shared his idea with the rest of Saja Pahad, but instead of volunteering to help, they just laughed at his crazy plan and called him a lunatic.
“No one helped me in my work, neither the administration nor the villagers,” Lal said proudly, adding that he did it for the welfare of the people and the cattle of his village.
Nonetheless, the young man didn’t let the people’s reaction get him down. Instead, he grabbed a spade and started digging the pond himself. He kept on digging for the next 27 years.
Now 42, Lal is considered a hero and a savior by his community. That small hole he started digging nearly three decades ago is now a one-acre, 15-feet-deep pond filled with precious water that serves the entire village. His work comes as a relief at a time Chhattisgarh is suffering from drought-like situation year after year.
The rainfall has been 10% short of the average over ten years. District collectors have been directed to ensure proper utilization of irrigation facilities.
Ramsaran Bargar (70), a local who witnessed Shyam toil through the years, says, “The pond is now used by everyone, and we are all thankful to him.”
The story of Lal’s determination went viral in the whole of India and prompted authorities in Mahendragarh district to acknowledge his achievement finally. A member of the regional legislative assembly recently visited Saja Pahad and offered Lal a 10,000 ($156) prize for his contribution to the village. District collector of Koriya, Narendra Duggal also promised his support to Shyam.
“I came to know about Shyam recently. His effort for his village is commendable, and I will go to his village to provide him all possible help,” Duggal said.