A NRI lady Mrs. Manik Devalapur approached PYAAS FOUNDATION with an appeal to save a public well which was donated to the corporation by her grandfather the philanthropist Shri Shankar Shetappa Kalghatgi.
PYAAS had never tried to revive a well and there were plans to bury the well and build a gym. The Corporation of the city of Belagavi decided to give the foundation a chance after some persuasion. When they went to the site they were shocked as the place where the well was supposed to be was nothing but a garbage dump, there was no sign of a well at all.
With not enough funds the project was supposed to be back benched and then later a seed amount was given by Mrs. Manik, but the problem was that we had no estimate of how deep the silt was, nor what it would take to complete the project. Electricity connection was procured, submersible pumps were brought in courtesy KLE Society and contractors who dug wells were found.
It was at this time that the 1993 batch of St Paul’s High school Belagavi decided to contribute to the cause and this was the highest contribution, second only to what PYAAS FOUNDATION spent out of its reserves.
Thus started digging the well. It was then that problems started, normally you have soil which is dug from wells but here there were mountains of garbage which were coming out, the workers at the well were not used to seeing this and we had to change our contractors twice. It was as if we were digging a drain and not a well. Every day they dug and all they found was plastic and garbage. These were anxious times as there was no sight of water, every five feet seemed like a mountain. But soon the well started revealing it’s secrets, one fine day, out of the blue, it hit the water, initially a trickle and soon a shower, the water found its way out.
Now they had their second problem, the water was too much to handle and it started mixing with the garbage and made working impossible. Again they had to work with a new contractor. They had to pump the water out and dig, they pumped the water for two hours which allowed us to work for one.
The hard labor started paying and the aquifers started revealing themselves, the flow of water was so much that it was impossible to drain even with three pumps drawing the water simultaneously.
At forty feet and still, there was no sign of the garbage stopping, the only indication they were getting as to when the garbage was dumped was with the dates on the labels of packages, disposed medicines, and milk bags.
They dug to sixty feet and now the laborers started feeling asphyxiated so we had to procure oxygen cylinders and the laborers dug with oxygen masks.
The pumping on one side and digging on the other, the task was never-ending. But surely one fine day the garbage stopped and hit clay, this was the end in the digging part.
The troubles were not over yet and now test the water for potability, to their dismay the water was contaminated and there was a sense of frustration.
PYAAS had hit rock bottom with its funds and there was no hope. But then they still did not give up, Mr. R S Nayak of the city corporation started searching for the sources of contamination, and soon enough it was found that a neighboring building had let its drainage into the well. The drain was diverted and source of contamination taken off. They reconstructed the broken walls of the well and covered it with mesh to prevent any casualties.
PYAAS work was now over, rather an adventure was over.
KUWS then took over the well, a protective compound wall was constructed and a filter unit was fitted to the well, the filtered water was tested and found fit for consumption, this was a sweet success to us.
The well, however, showed it’s true utility when the floods damaged the pumping station at Hindalga. There was no water and there was no hope. It was at this time of peril that the corporation decided to open up the well and give connections to fill tankers. To the surprise of everyone, the water in the well was never-ending, tanker after tanker came and the well only obliged. Almost the entire Belagavi city was supplied water by this well, yet not once did the well have a fall in its water level. There is no greater joy than to be useful to society. Today one can proudly say that the dream of Shri Shankar Kalghatgi to supply water in memory of his wife stood the test of time.
The Kelkarbag well will be for times to come remembered as the iconic well that helped the city when there was no water in the floods of August 2019.