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Thanni

Thanni or drinking water is a central concern on the Lakshadweep islands. Fresh water sources on the island were derived from ponds and wells where the rainwater got trapped in creeks of crevices of rocks. It is the presence of drinking water that determines inhabitation on an island. R.H.Ellis, a British officer, stated in 1924 that the islanders had resisted the British attempt to colonize the uninhabited islands with people due to absence of fresh water (Ellis, 2010: 133). Elders pointed out to me that the presence of fresh water is Allah’s miracle. This water fills ponds and wells and becomes the sole drinking water source for the year. The presence of fresh water in some  ponds are tied to the sacred landscape on the island as they are believed to be created by djinns (an invisible non-human spirit). In Kalpeni, pond water is considered to have healing qualities especially for curing itches and rashes in children. The water is also collected during the holy month of Ramzan to break the fast in the evening. However, islanders now tell another story . With the  dredging of corals on the island around the 1980s and with increased construction of buildings, the water on the islands has become polluted. Excessive pumping of groundwater has led to a scarcity of thanni -  the mineral rich groundwater of the islands. Today, thanni tastes salty in many islands including the capital island of Kavaratti. The islanders rely on the desalinated water derived from the desalination plants.Today, the islanders fear the loss of these fresh water ponds. They believe that corals support freshwater sources and any change in reef ecology could  translate into a severe water crisis. Thanni, marks and sustains island life and survival in the  Lakshadweep.