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New water supply system working wonders for women

Mohammed Iqbal

Water, sanitation interventions have changed life in 60 Rajasthan villages

— Photo: Rohit Jain Paras

Precious change:Thanks to the Aapno Swasthya Aapno Haath project, there has been a significant reduction in cases of malaria, dengue, chikungunya and diarrhoea in Ghatol block of Rajasthan's Banswara district.

JAIPUR: A new community-based water supply system operated by villagers in the tribal-dominated Ghatol block of Banswara district in Rajasthan has ensured hassle-free functioning of hand-pumps providing safe drinking water and made life easier for women who earlier had to go long distances to fetch potable water.

The water and sanitation interventions under an integrated project, Aapno Swasthya Aapne Haath (Our Health In Our Hands), launched by advocacy group Save the Children have brought about a radical change in the lives of rural communities in 60 villages, covering over 11,400 households, this summer.

The project, launched a year ago in collaboration with Banswara-based NGO Vaagdhara, has yielded rich dividends for the population of 63,300 in the region, including 4,880 children below five years, by covering village squares, panchayat offices, schools and anganwadi centres which earlier lacked safe drinking water facilities.

A special feature of the project, which has concentrated on repairing defective hand-pumps and installing new ones, is formulation of a water security plan for each village and linking it with the respective village panchayats for effective implementation. The initiative has led to adequate supply of water serving the villagers' needs.

Vaagdhara secretary Jayesh Joshi told The Hindu that a field assessment before the project's initiation had revealed that 40 per cent of the hand-pumps were non-functional for lack of trained mechanics while the concept of community ownership of these important sources of water “simply did not exist”. Till last summer, women and girls would fetch water from unprotected sources situated 2 to 3 km from their homes, spending about an hour in the exercise. Most hand-pumps did not have any arrangement for disposal of waste water and many had gone dry due to depletion of water level.

Aapno Swasthya Aapne Haath installed groundwater recharge units along with hand-pumps with community support to make the water sources sustainable during summer. “Under the watchful eye of [water] users' groups, the 60 villages are getting ample water this summer. There is no scarcity as witnessed [elsewhere] in the district,” says Mr. Joshi.

On Vaagdhara's suggestion, the project incorporated a plan for identification and training of hand-pump mechanics to reduce “breakdown time” of faulty hand-pumps and improve livelihood prospects for local tribal youths. Save the Children provided hand-pump tool kits to panchayats and village health committees, leading to establishment of 20 spare part depots. “This self-sustainable approach for community-led operation and maintenance has ensured success of water and sanitation interventions,” says Mr. Joshi.

Garnawat village residents went a step further and installed a mini-piped water supply system last October, pumping water from a deep bore-well to a service reservoir of 20,000-litre capacity four feet above ground. The water users' group has obtained a 2-KW power connection to run the pump and the water is disinfected regularly with bleaching powder.

The water users' group in Garnawat recently decided to give individual household connections from the supply system on payment of a monthly fee. In other villages, too, local communities make financial contribution every month and pay remuneration to hand-pump mechanics. Cleanliness maintained around the hand-pumps has reduced diseases such as malaria, dengue and chikungunya while instances of diarrhoea among children have come down.

According to Vaagdhara activists, the Water Resources Department authorities are no longer receiving complaints about hand-pumps from the 60 project villages. The officials reportedly have recommended the unique model to the State Government for its replication in other districts.

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