Man Digs Canal for 30 Years to Save Village

‘Madman’ digs for decades to bring water to dry Indian village. He ignores villagers’ taunts and digs a 3 km canal from nearby hills to bring water to his parched village in eastern India. This is a truly remarkable story.

For nearly 30 years, Ramrati Devi had called her husband Laungi Bhuiya 'mad' and tried everything, even denying him food, to get him to focus more on supporting their children and less on what seemed like an impossible dream. The other villagers in Kothilwa, a parched and poor hamlet in a remote corner of India’s eastern state of Bihar, scoffed at Bhuiya when he said he would bring water to them one day.

Bhuiya, who owns a small piece of land, always reckoned that if he could dig a canal to redirect the streams running up in the hills to his village - which only had a couple of wells for drinking water that were not enough for irrigation - he and others would be able to grow vegetables and wheat and support themselves. Therefore, oblivious to his wife’s reprimands and the villagers’ taunts, Bhuiya, now 70, would head up into the nearby Bangetha Hills to dig.

Taking a leaf from Don Quixote, Bhuiyan was determined not only to dream an impossible dream but to make that dream come true by single-handedly bringing water to his village in hopes of transforming the barren land into arable acreage.

Inspired by the earlier exploits of “Mountain Man” Dashrath Manjh, who, with just a hammer and chisel, spent 22 years carving a road through the mountain near the village Gehlaur from 1960 to 1982, Bhuiya set out to dig an irrigation canal by hand to the closest water source in the Bangetha Hills. “I had heard about him and I thought if he can do it, why can’t I?” Bhuiya told Al Jazeera. “They all thought I was mad.”

Now everyone is benefitting from the fruits of his endeavours. Bhuiya, whose reputation as a neighbourhood eccentric has since been transformed into local hero. As word spread, Bihar’s former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi visited the village and promised Bhuiya he would be recognised by the Indian president. Villagers present asked Manjhi for a hospital and a road to be built and named after Bhuiya.

That evening, Bhuyia, resplendent in a white kurta and dhoti with flowers in his hand, went to an auto showroom in Gaya where a tractor decorated gaily with balloons stood waiting for him. It was a gift from Anand Mahindra, chairman of the auto giant Mahindra Group, who had heard through a local journalist’s tweets that Bhuiya was now dreaming of owning a tractor after having dug the irrigation canal.

This 3 minute video will give you a visual understanding of what Laungi has achieved, and how.