ACF has worked with communities of Chandrapur, Ambujanagar, Nadi Kudi to install water systems which distribute water equitably in the communities whilst maintaining both quality and quantity. These systems include community based RO systems, Water ATMs and networks of pipes and taps for distribution - all of which are owned and managed by the community. With the current pandemic, communities are taking responsibility to ensure that water remains accessible to villagers for proper sanitation during COVID-19, whilst maintaining social distancing norms.
'A water distribution system is one in which the drinking water is transported from the centralised treatment plant or well supply to the service connection or consumersÂ´ taps. These systems aim to preserve the quality and quantity of water, as well as maintain sufficient pressures in the distribution of water. Basically, these systems consist of a network of pipes, pumps, valves, storage tanks, reservoirs and other components.' (BHARDWAJ and METZGAR 2001).
The establishment of Community Led Water Distribution Systems in rural communities (often within 500m of households) is a key programme of ACF which has helped solve the drinking water issues in communities around Chandrapur (Mahrashtra), Ambujanagar (Gujarat) and Nadikudi (Andhra Pradesh) - interventions that have helped empower them during the COVID-19 pandemic. These systems include an RO Water Purifying system in Andhra Pradesh, a RO water purifying and Water ATM in Chandrapur and a Drinking Water Distribution pipeline in Ambujanagar all owned by the communities.
Here below are some of the stories of transformation from ACF owned to community ownership:
Reverse Osmosis Water Purifying System & Water ATM - Nadi Kudi, Andhra Pradesh
When ACF entered the villages of Nadi Kudi, Andhra Pradesh, the lack of safe drinking water was a significant problem - with high TDS contents, and other chemical, biological pollutants in the ground water. As a result, more than 50% of people in the villages were suffering frequently from 'Arthritis', 'Typhoid' and other water borne diseases. ACF showed the water analysis reports and explained the consequences of consuming the poor quality water to the community, to help educate them about the issue.
Brainstorming solutions, it was agreed that the installment of an RO water plant was the best choice to address the issue of purified drinking water. A well-planned distribution system was needed to ensure every household received the water supply equally. But if people wanted the benefits, ACF insisted that they should contribute and invest in the service.
Villagers welcomed the idea of 'RO plant establishment' but were hesitant about coming up with the community contribution. However, after continuous consultations between ACF and the Gram Panchayat, village elders, cooperatives, Women's SHGs and community heads, people began coming forward to contribute:
- The women were the first to come forward with their contributions. They could see the benefits of water reaching their homes, which would reduce the drudgery faced by them and their children. 15 SHGs contributed Rs. 30,000 and a women's federation contributed Rs. 4000 to build a 500 LpH RO plant machinery.
- A Community member and the local Panchayat donated land to build the RO systems on.
- The local Milk Association contributed Rs. 2 lakhs for the construction of the building.
As a consequence 4 RO plants were installed in Budavada village in 2010.Cumulatively, a total of 19 RO plants were set up in project villages of Chandrapur, Maharashtra and Sankrail, West Bengal. As on March 2020, about 4600 households got drinking water and on an average 65,000 litre per day were supplied from these RO systems. All these systems are managed by the community through Village Development Committees/RO Committees. In fact, in some villages women committees are managing these systems. ACF has provided additional training to the committee members on leadership and accounting..
Network of Distribution Pipes & Taps - Ambujanagar, Gujarat
In Ambujanagar, ACF is taking access to drinking water to the next level, by providing drinking water at the household doorstep by developing a network of pipes for water distribution for the entire village. In 2018 ACF completed installation of a village drinking water scheme in Vadnagar village and covered 1245 households. Over a period of time, they provided drinking water facilities to 13 core villages.
Every village faced its own complications and challenges. For example in Singsar village, there was a very large population and group water supply was the only source of water - resulting in permanent water scarcity due to over demand. ACF dug out a new drinking well 1.5 kilometers away from the village where there was a possibility of sweet water. After completion of work the entire village was provided with sufficient water throughout the year, with a network of pipeline being laid to provide water from well direct to village households.
To ensure ongoing sustainability, after completion of project, ACF handed the management of the project to the community itself through a Paani Samiti (Drinking Water Committee). Paani Samiti appoints a water operator to monitor the timely water supply and maintenance of the distribution scheme. For these types of expenses, the committee collects water charges from every home and maintains the total scheme from this collection.
Today, 13 core villages of Ambujanagar have doorstep access to safe drinking water thanks to ACF distribution systems. A total of 77 members are associated in the Paani Samiti. TDS checking is done on a monthly basis, which is usually between 100 to 350ppm.
But how do we sustain this Community Ownership in our locations?
How do we guarantee that the communities continue to take ownership and ensure sustainability of the system? ACF identifies or builds people's institutions to take ownership and drive drinking water interventions in the long term:
- Women SHG Federations: This has proven to be one of the best institutions to approach. Because they are well organized and institutionalized, federations understand the concept of intervention with minimum efforts and maximum benefits.
- Building Water User Associations: In some communities, ACF has formed Water Users Associations who take it up on themselves to finish projects before the summer or drought season so that the community has sufficient water for their daily use. In some cases repair work is also done by pooling in both human and financial resources. Creating such people's institutions also instills trust among the community members.
- Village Development Committees (VDC): The distribution and maintenance of water is the sole responsibility of members of village based committees, to which ACF provides technical and monitoring support. Village communities procure water from RO plants usually at a cost of Rs. 3/- to Rs. 5/- per 20 litres . The villagers have the option to either purchase coupons in advance for a month or initiate a cash and carry system. In both the options the beneficiary (consumer) has to come to the RO plant with his/her container and fill/carry the RO water home. Each RO plant is maintained by a waged employee hired by the 'Committee' to look after the running of the plant, distributing purified water and managing financial transactions at the RO plant. The committee verifies these books and records on a weekly/ fortnightly basis and ACF verifies it on a monthly basis.
ACF continues to provide knowledge on various subjects in regard to water purification and distribution to ensure that the communities are drinking safe and clean water. Regular workshops on testing the TDS levels in water, understanding the technicalities of the RO plants and introducing Water ATMs to communities are key facets of ACF's drinking water intervention - one conducted in partnership with local communities.
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