When Valerian David D’Souza and his wife Joanna D’Souza came from Mumbai and settled in Kashipatna village eight years ago, their small patch of land did not have any water source. They fetched drinking water from a neighbour’s well.

But a scheme of digging open wells under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) came in handy for them. When the Kashipatna Gram Panchayat in Belthangady taluk introduced this scheme for the first time in 2010-11, the couple made use of it and got an open well dug. Since then the well has been quenching their thirst.

Mr. Valerian said the well was dug up at an estimated cost of Rs. 12,750 under the scheme. At a total cost of Rs. 40,000, he strengthened the inner walls and built the outer wall of the well.

This gram panchayat is now leading Dakshina Kannada in digging open wells to meet the drinking water needs, discouraging people from digging borewells, said Deputy Secretary of Dakshina Kannada Zilla Panchyath N.R. Umesh.

Panchayat Development Officer (PDO) of the panchayat K.G. Vasudeva said 180 open wells have been dug in the village since 2010-11.

Jaya Ameen, who is leading Kayaka Sangha, a group of 10 job cardholders under the MNREGA, said digging an open well was cheaper than drilling a borewell, which would cost between Rs. 50,000 and Rs. 1 lakh. The depth of most wells is between 35 ft and 40 ft., he said.

Mr. Vasudeva said a majority of wells dug up under the scheme in the village – having 712 houses now – have water throughout the year. There were a few wells which did not yield water, he said.

Mr. Ameen said approximately 500 of the houses in the village had open wells, including the old ones and those dug under MNREGA. He said that unlike borewells, open wells help in recharging ground water during the rainy season. He hopes the water table in the village might go up over the years.

Mr. Ameen said that digging open wells had discouraged many from drilling borewells for drinking water. However, there were a few people who opted for borewells as they wanted it for both agriculture and drinking water purposes, he added.

Villager Nagamma said the new well on her premises has water throughout the year except in April and May.

Agreeing with the views of Mr. Ameen, hydrogeologist and rainwater harvest expert N.J. Devaraja Reddy told The Hindu that if borewells emptied aquifer, open wells helped to recharge underground water quickly. Borewell water could be contaminated with saline water, thereby increasing its hardness. Open wells on the other hand usually had potable water, he said.

More In: Mangaluru