Avoiding leopards to access water

By Estelle Van Hoeydonck, Field Experience Program Advisor

Have you ever heard of a leopard preventing someone from drinking water? To be honest, I didn’t know leopards lived in India - that’s why I work for World Vision and not a wildlife organisation!

Because you sponsor a child in India I am sharing the story of a community I recently visited in World Vision’s Pauri project, located in the far north of India in the Himalayan foothills. It’s a serene place to live, with exquisite sunrises over enormous mountains and rich wildlife including monkeys…and leopards!

Only a few hundred kilometres away pristine glacial water flows from the Himalayas into the Ganges river, but in this community the people told us about their severe lack of water. Before World Vision helped out four years ago, people from Pauri had to walk for hours to access a pipe from much further up in the mountains that ran past many other communities who also accessed the water. Most days the water ran out. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to walk over rocky mountains for hours each day only to find the pipe is dry! At night desperate families would trek through the dark hoping that there could be water available then, but it became common for leopards to attack them.

Leopards are a dangerous barrier to clean drinking water that you might not have considered before, but have you ever wondered what a lack of water might do to the dynamics in a community? The community told me about the severe competition for water between families and the conflict it created. If one family was lucky enough to go to the tap when it was running and for the first time in days give their livestock some water and wash themselves, while another family was unable to get enough water to quench their thirst, you can imagine the struggles they faced when everyone had multiple legitimate needs for water, but there was never enough for everyone.

While most Australians haven’t experienced this specific problem, our country has experienced many droughts and we can understand the importance of water and the anxiety that comes with not having enough of it. Poverty is a global problem that we can all connect with and we can all be part of the solution – and you have been doing this by sponsoring a child and helping communities in India gain access to water!

World Vision worked with the community to employ an environmentally-friendly solution to their water problem: a solar-powered water pump. They tapped into a previously inaccessible natural spring and installed solar panels which now produce enough power to pump water to the community. World Vision worked with locals to install the water pump and trained two locals to maintain the system if anything breaks (which is usually caused by monkeys attacking the pipes!). Donations from supporters like you helped to buy the water pump, and now everybody in the community pays a small amount each month to maintain the water supply. This means that it is now sustainable, reliably provides water to the community and it even employs two locals! Nobody now risks their life walking through the leopard’s territory at night, and the community told us how much happier and healthier they were, how they could cooperate as a community again, and that their stress-levels were radically reduced.

I am proud to work for World Vision and know that the work we do overseas complements the specific needs of communities, and I thank you for your generous support because I know that none of it would be possible without you!

I was in India to lead a trip for the 2016 World Vision Youth Ambassadors to see World Vision’s work in action. If you would like to travel with World Vision yourself to see the life-changing work you’ve been helping, click here.