Saja Pahad, a small village in Chhattisgarh, India, has been dealing with severe water shortages for as long as anyone can remember. With only two wells available, 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, but one “crazy” teenager took matters into his own hands.
Shyam Lal was only 15-years-old when he took it upon himself to solve his village’s water problem. He identified a spot in a nearby forest and 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. But 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.
Photo: Hindustan Times
Now 42, Shyam Lal is considered a hero and a savior by his community. That small hole he started digging nearly three decades ago is now a a one-acre, 15-feet-deep pond filled with precious water that serves the entire village.
“No one helped me in my work, neither the administration nor the villagers,” Lal proudly told the Hindustan Times, adding that it was his dream to secure enough water for the whole village and their cattle.
The story of Shyam Lal’s determination recently went viral in the whole of India, and prompted authorities in Mahendragarh district to finally acknowledge his achievement. 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.
Photo: Hindustan Times
The district collector also announced how impress he was by Shyam Lal and pledged to help him moving forward. “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,” Narendra Duggal said.
Funny how everyone is so willing to help now, but couldn’t be bothered to lend a hand when their help was really needed, isn’t it?
Shyam Lal’s monumental achievement has been compared to the legendary struggle of Dashrath Manjhi, who spent over 22 years carving a 110-meter path through a mountain, using only hammers and chisels, to reduce the distance between his village and the nearest town from 55 km to 15 km.
The pond and the valuable water it holds are needed now more than ever. Chhattisgarh is facing some of its most sever droughts, with 10% less rainfall than the average of the last 10 years.
Last year, we featured the equally impressive feat of Bapurao Tajne, who spend 40 days single-handedly digging a well, after his wife was denied access to drinking water by the locals for being of a lower caste.