Sundarbans: Fed up with recurrent stomach ailments caused by consumption of contaminated water for years, a group of villagers in the Sundarbans have started running a groundwater treatment plant on their own.
Hand pumps, the only source of drinking water at the Dakshin Shibpur village under Patharpratima block, are not only contaminated but also have dissolved iron and salinity rendering the water unsafe for drinking.
"The taste was really bad and we had frequent stomach- related problems like acidity after drinking the tube well water," complains 23-year-old housewife Surekha Das.
According to a recent United Nations report, more than three million people in the world die due to consumption of contaminated water.
In India, over one lakh people die of water-borne diseases annually.
The World Bank estimates that 21 per cent of communicable diseases in India are related to unsafe water.
To address this problem, local NGO "Sundarbans Social Development Centre" and international NGO "Save the Children" organised the villagers and provided funds to set up a small water treatment plant.
Villagers got together and Tanmay Kumar Das, also a local Panchayat Samiti member, volunteered to part with his land for the plant.
A submersible pump was installed which drew underground water from a depth of 980 feet and channelled it through a filtration process which starts with an online chlorine dosing for pre-oxidation.
Afterwards water is passed through an oxidation unit, dual filter, activated carbon filter and a micron filter. Finally the water is passed through a UV steriliser to remove any of microbiological elements present in it.
The treatment plant, which started functioning last December, is run fully by villagers who have assumed the responsibility of maintaining it on their own.
A water sanitation committee, comprising locals, collects Rs 30 per month from each of the families which draw water from the plant. At present, around 35 families form the user group.
"The money collected is used to pay for the electricity bill and other maintenance expenses. Thus the sustainability of the project is guaranteed with a regular flow of income," said water and sanitation expert Jyotirmoy Chakraborty, who guided the villagers in the project.
With a capacity to filter around 4000 litres of underground water in a day, the plant can provide water for drinking and cooking to around 120 families. The village has 100 families.
"Excess water is sold for marriage, parties, etc," he said.
Since the design of the plant is simple and easy to operate, even women folk are able to run the machine.
"We share the work of running the plant among ourselves. It takes only 20 minutes in the morning and another 20 minutes in the evening to do the filtration," Surekha Das said.
She is happy that ever since her family started drinking the filtered water, no one has fallen sick.