Sustainable Transformation of 163 Abandoned Wells in Virudhunagar’s ‘String of Wells’ Project

Discover how 163 abandoned wells in Tamil Nadu’s Virudhunagar district have been reborn through the ‘String of Wells’ project, blending art and conservation.

A well redesigned in the shape of a basket as part of the 'String of Wells' project in Tamil Nadu.
A well redesigned in the shape of a basket as part of the ‘String of Wells’ project in Tamil Nadu. Photo: TOI

Virudhunagar, Tamil Nadu – September 21, 2023: In a remarkable initiative, the Virudhunagar district in Tamil Nadu, India, has witnessed the revival and transformation of 163 abandoned open wells through a visionary project known as the ‘String of Wells.’ Launched by the district administration officials, this endeavor not only rejuvenated these wells but also gave them a stunning makeover.

Traditionally, open wells have served as the primary source of water for drinking and irrigation in Virudhunagar, a semi-arid and rainfed district. However, as the years passed, many of these wells were abandoned due to dwindling water levels. The ‘String of Wells’ project identified 163 such neglected wells scattered across the district.

Implemented between August and November 2022, the project received funding through the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme and other local resources. The brainchild of the then Virudhunagar district collector, J. Meghanath Reddy, the project’s methodology involved careful excavation of the earth around the wells to a width of 1.20 to 1.50 meters and a depth of 0.75 meters. Perforated horizontal and vertical pipes were strategically placed around the wells to collect surface water, preventing stagnation.

The external structures of these wells received a captivating makeover, designed in various shapes such as train compartments, baskets, drums, coffee cups, gift boxes, watermelons, and treasure chests. This artistic transformation was aimed not only at enhancing the visual appeal but also at raising awareness about the significance of open well conservation and rainwater harvesting.

G. Prakash Kumar, an assistant engineer with the District Rural Development Agency (DRDA), highlighted the primary objective of the project: to recharge and rejuvenate the abandoned wells, replenishing the groundwater in the area. These once-neglected structures, which had turned into dumping grounds due to water scarcity, were now reborn as vital recharge structures. Safety measures, including steel railings, were introduced to prevent accidents, ensuring the maintained wells’ longevity.

Kumar explained, “Wells were strategically chosen based on their location, proximity to overhead water tanks, and low-lying areas to facilitate the natural flow of water into the wells for recharge. The project’s beautification aspect serves to create awareness among the public about the importance of open well conservation.”

Local residents have expressed their delight at witnessing water percolating into these wells after many years of dry abandonment. S. Boominathan, president of the Muthuramalingapuram village panchayat, recalled a well’s existence for over 40 years, which had been abandoned for a quarter of a century due to water scarcity. Now, this well acts as a groundwater recharge structure, receiving water from an adjacent overhead tank and rainwater during the monsoon season.

G. Manoharan, president of the Pannaimoondradaippu village panchayat, echoed this sentiment, sharing that the well in their village, which had been dry for over three decades, now exhibited water percolation. These revitalized wells have not only become sources of life-giving water but also symbols of community identity and artistic expression.

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The ‘String of Wells’ project in Virudhunagar stands as a testament to the power of innovative thinking and community-driven conservation efforts, serving as a model for similar initiatives across the nation.

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