Caowangba is a small village hidden deep in the mountains of the Guizhou Province, China. It had no access to running water and was separated from the nearest source by three karst mountains.
Huang Dafa, the village's former chief, decided to do the impossible and chisel a 6-mile canal on the side of the three mountains to bring water to the village. He started the project in 1959 and it took 36 years to complete.
Before the water channel was completed, the residents of Caowangba barely had enough water for drinking and could only grow potatoes and corn. The area was regularly affected by drought and residents had to ration water from the village's only well.
“There was a rule that nobody could take too much. If they did, someone else may not have any for breakfast. These conditions motivated us,” Xu Zhuo told Xinhua News. “Forget irrigation. We had a 330-square-meter rice paddy that was parched to the point you put your foot in the cracks in the dry season. It was a serious problem. So, we started looking for a serious solution.”
But apart from moving away, the villagers didn’t really have a lot of options. Huang Dafa, then only 23 years old, set out to convince them to build a canal that would bring water all the way from the next village that’s a few miles and three mountains away.
He managed to convince some young men to work with him on the ambitious canal project, but conditions were tough. Huang lead his people the whole way for the next three decades until the canal was finally completed in 1995. That was the same year the village got a road and access to electricity, also thanks to Huang.
His three main goals as chief were to bring water to the village, build a road, and get access to electricity. He managed to fulfill all three. He’s 81 now, but he still regularly checks the canal to make sure it’s working well!