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Trust Objects and Purposes: Water – Part Two

Continuing the account of water development from the last installment:

Meherazad had its own water problems. There was a fabulous bore well at Meherazad dubbed “Amazing Grace”, the location of which a diviner had discovered. It was a very productive well until one year it suddenly dried up. Although the Meherazad area has plentiful underground streams, the farmers in the surrounding area drilled many wells and pumped water continuously. All the aquifers there are interconnected and the farmers just pumped it dry.

The Meherazad staff sought the services of Mr. Salve, an expert diviner. He found an independent stream at 32 feet where a 15-foot diameter well was dug. Remarkably, this diviner was able to find one small fissure in a very large area.

With this success as evidence of his capability, Mr. Salve was called to Meherabad. In the meantime, Bhau had been buying more land at Meherabad including an area more than a mile west of Baba’s Samadhi. Mr. Salve directed the Trust to drill at a particular spot on this property where he predicted they would find water at 28 feet. Understandably, Bhau was hesitant to invest any more time and money in looking for water at Meherabad. Nevertheless, he eventually decided to drill there, and sure enough, water was struck at 28-feet. The well was very productive. We learned from this experience that the diviner was reliable, and more importantly, there actually was water in this area to the west of Upper Meherabad.

We next took Mr. Salve out to the Sonewadi water project, which had been abandoned for almost twenty years. At the base of the Sonewadi dam, on land that the government had purchased for the project, Mr. Salve found a stream at 42 feet. The Trust decided to seek permission to drill a second well there. We approached the Environmental Engineering Works Department which was in charge of the Sonewadi Project. Amazingly, the department signed the whole Sonewadi water project over to the Trust with the proviso that any work had to be done in cooperation with the Government Geology Department. The department, which is run by an old Brahmin from a service-oriented family, provided us with a geologist. Although the diviner had pointed out a really good fissure at 42 feet right at the base of the dam, we knew the geologist would not drill at that spot on the say-so of a diviner, as geologists don’t believe in diviners. The geologist wanted to drill in a different area away from the stream Mr. Salve had found. Instead, we tried to convince him to drill in Salve’s location on the pretext of seeing what the strata were like but the geologist wasn’t buying it.

In any event, we tried multiple times to organize for the drilling of the well, convinced that through one stratagem or another we could get the geologist to drill in Salve’s spot. However, there was always some reason why we couldn’t get the drilling rig. One day when we went to the old Brahmin’s office, he had been having trouble with his staff and was in a furious mood. Out of frustration, he said, “You just take the rig and get out of here; I don’t care what you do with it!” We took the drilling rig to the spot the diviner had found and drilled to about 100 feet when a drunken farmer from an adjacent property jumped on top of the rig and shouted: “Stop drilling; It’s my land!” We responded, “This is not your land; you sold it to the government.” The farmer insisted it was his land. At this point, we called Bhau, who rushed a jeep out to pick up the farmer and bring him to the Trust office. Bhau cajoled the farmer into helping in Baba’s cause by offering him Baba’s Prasad (baksheesh). The farmer allowed us to drill without further complaint. By the time we turned the rig back on the borewell had filled with water. The pressure created by drilling had blocked water in the stream from flowing into the well. When the rig was turned off, the pressure ceased and water was free to flow. A pipeline was laid from there all the way to Meherabad. It has proved to be an excellent source of water which, although it slows during the summer, never dries up completely. With Mr. Salve’s help, the Trust has dug two other very successful wells in this area to the west of Meher Baba’s Samadhi.

In the meantime, the number of people staying at Meherabad grew substantially. The Trust had built a large school, opened Hostel D, and agreed to allow villagers to take water from Meherabad. So, despite the new sources of water, the dry season continued to be difficult. In fact, the Trust was forced to impose restrictions on the use of water. Pilgrims staying at the Meher Pilgrim Centre were allowed to bathe only every third day. Once it even became necessary to postpone the beginning of the pilgrim season to October. Additionally, there was the perennial problem of sufficient water for Amartithi, which grew substantially every year.

Of course, poor monsoon years were especially problematic. In April 2002, it became so bad that the residents at Meherabad had to undergo very strict water rationing. At this critical time, we learned in consultation with government officials that it would be possible for us to tap into a twelve-inch line for a much better water supply. The local government approved our request to connect to this line. Because of the serious situation, the Trust was pressed to construct a 1¼ mile connecting pipeline prior to the opening of the pilgrim season on 15th June 2002. We were uncertain if this could be accomplished. However, the contractor worked day and night to fulfill his promise in completing the pipeline in time. With this new line, we are back to getting about 22,000 gallons a day, which is a substantial contribution.

Throughout the years, in its letters to the Government concerning the development of Meherabad and Meherazad, the Trust explained repeatedly that it could not effectively continue its work due to lack of water. In the late 90’s the government finally started water schemes all over the State of Maharashtra.

In 1997 the Trust applied to receive water under these government schemes which propose to serve over 80 villages in the area including Meherabad and Meherazad. Every year for nearly a decade the Trust kept hoping that these schemes would be operational. At long last, they are nearing completion, and we expect to receive about 80,000 gallons of water per day at Meherabad and about 50,000 gallons per day at Meherazad. Likewise, Arangaon Village and Pimpalgaon-Malvi village will have their independent water supplies. Getting this water goes a long way in helping the Trust with its continued development of Meherabad and Meherazad. But the water saga is far from over. The local population continues to grow, and farm yields are declining due to lack of crop rotation and pesticide use, causing farmers to rely more and more on irrigation.

Along with the efforts to increase infrastructure in the form of wells and pipelines, the Trust also started an afforestation project beginning in 1976. The impetus for this, in part, was the constant refrain of environmentally aware pilgrims staying at Meherabad, who said, “You know if you grow trees, it will greatly increase your rainfall because trees attract rain.” As a result of years of hard work planting a vast number of trees, there has been a significant improvement in rainfall. Previously Meherabad got 30 percent less rain than Ahmednagar; now it gets 30 percent more. Although it may never return to its original state, Arangaon might yet again be a Forest Village. Miracles still happen now and then.

In His Service,
Peter Booth

The next article in this series will discuss the history and development of architecture at Meherabad.