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Partnering for Prosperity: Island Flood Prevention

July 21, 2011

By Heather Hintze

ANDRA PRADESH, India — Flooding affected more than a dozen states this year, but imagine losing everything you own to flood waters and having to rebuild your community every three years. For one village in India, that’s a reality.

Every two to three years the Krishna River rises drastically, flooding the island of Rayallanka and destroying their crops and livestock.

India Partners brought a team of engineers from the U.S. to see what can be done about the project.

Two-hundred villagers live on the 300 acres of Rayallanka.

They’ve cultivated the land, growing eggplant, yams, bananas, and many other types of produce. But when the flood waters come, they lose everything.

“This whole island is devastated. Their homes are damaged, their crops are gone, their animals are killed. A couple of years ago, nine children lost their lives in the flood,” said India Partners Field Representative Kaytie Fielder.

What makes matters worse is the villagers have nowhere else to go. They’re in the lowest caste in India, the untouchables.

Because they can’t leave to avoid the flood, India Partners received a grant to bring in engineers to see how they could get the flood waters to avoid the island.

Five people from Engineering Ministries International (eMi) came to the island for the week-long project.

“It’s like being in a dream world, riding in the back of a tractor to get out to an island in South Asia and be able to make a difference in the lives of others,” said eMi India Associate Director Graham Frank.

Austin Desain from St. Louis, Missouri is the team surveyor.

He says working in the rural fields of India is a far cry from his usual work back home.

“This is not exactly like surveying in the city. There’s no big buildings. We can’t look for cut-crosses or property corners or anything like that.  We’re going between banana groves” said Desain.

He and Frank survey the island to figure out acreage and topography, trying to collect as much data as they can during the hot and extremely humid days.

“It’s not the type of job where the weak of heart of spirit could jump out of their comfort zone and come here the next week. The people that are here are really serious about being involved with this project,” Desain said.

Two other members of the eMi team are testing soil and taking ground samples with the help of the locals.

“More hard work for them.  As you can see they’re working pretty hard back there, pounding that six-foot pole into the soil,” said Monique Comeau, intern.

They hope all of their hard work will culminate in solutions they can give to the villagers.

“We’re not here to design a little America. We’re here to design something relevant to the place where we’re here to serve,” Frank said, eMi India Associate Director.

“As professionals in our career we strive daily to make the lives of people easier by using our skills. Something like this takes it a step further.  It actually helps people to live by using our skills, so it means a lot. It’s a big deal,” Desain said.

India Partners has helped Rayallanka residents for more than 10 years, but when the flood waters came, all of their hard work and money was washed out to sea, literally.

Staff hope coming up with a tangible solution will fix that.

“It means that we will be able to help some people who aren’t able to help themselves right now. And they’re willing to be a part of the project and that’s what’s exciting to me.  It’s not just throwing money at them, it’s not just giving them a handout, it’s truly partnering with them to work together as a team,” Fielder said.

The engineering team will write a report with their findings and suggest possible solutions.

Another team will visit in February for follow up work.

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