How water brought a village together

The village of Bankpura has come together for the cause of safe-drinking water. As a result, they are empowered and are prospering.
Water tank near the primary school and anganwadi for the children to avail safe water. (Source: Puja Singh)
Water tank near the primary school and anganwadi for the children to avail safe water. (Source: Puja Singh)

Bankpura village is in Mehgaon gram panchayat in Dharampuri block in district Dhar of Madhya Pradesh. It is situated 26km away from the sub-district headquarters, Dharampuri, and 68km away from the district headquarter, Dhar. Dhamnod is the nearest town to this village which is approximately 7km away. It is well connected by roads and railways. Being well connected, it has been fortunate to avail the government schemes meant for rural development. 

Bankpura village before the cleanliness drive (Source: Puja SIngh)The drinking water supply scheme in this village was facilitated through the gram panchayat funds and the MLA funds. The Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) had also dug a well, but it had dried up. The District Water and Sanitations Committee (DWSC) was formed a few years ago. There are 187 households in the village at present. Of these, 143 households have individual tap-water connections. The other 44 households depend on their own open wells dug in their farms. The DWSC was using the open well in the outskirts of this village to supply water to 143 households. Water from this well was pumped into a well in the village and from there, the water was again pumped to fill up a tank to supply water. 

The drinking water supply from bore wells and hand pumps was also in use for some time. After the water from the hand pumps was found to be contaminated with fluoride, the villagers stopped using the water for drinking and cooking. There are four hand pumps, but all of them are contaminated with fluoride and hence water from these sources is used only for domestic purpose. 

The DWSC had fixed Rs 100 for a new connection and the concerned household would have to pay for the pipe line from the distribution pipe network and contribute labour for digging and connecting the pipe line. DWSC collected a monthly water tariff of Rs 50 per tap connection. Valves were placed on the pipeline at different locations to distribute the water properly in the village. Water supply was limited to half-an-hour or one hour and the pumping was done for three to four hours a day. The waterman collected the tariff and kept the account. He was paid a monthly honorarium of Rs 3000. He only maintained the accounts and submitted it to the DWSC. The water supply was being managed by the DWSC. In spite of all this, the villagers were not satisfied. According to them, the water man kept the excess amount and did not deposit it in the bank. Moreover, the supply well in the village got contaminated with sewage water from an open drain adjacent to the well. This made the water dirty and smelly.

Access to clean water

In the year 2013, a team from People’s Science Institute, Dehradun (PSI) had visited the village. The problem was identified and the possible solution was discussed with the villagers, but some powerful Villagers begin work under the PSI guidance (Source: Puja Singh)people in the village did not like PSI’s intervention in their village. They would always send the team back. They believed it was the government’s responsibility to provide water so they will seek help from the concerned government department. But the PSI team kept visiting the village to test water and urine samples. An awareness campaign was also organised in this village in 2014. After the campaign, the villagers took the initiative to clean their village and also demanded the panchayat to construct proper roads in the village. But their enthusiasm was again crushed.

In 2015, when the villagers heard about the successful implementation of distributing clean drinking water in their neighbouring villages--Kaalapani, Badichetri, Chotichetri, Banjari and Daheriya--they again approached PSI for help. This time, they did not bother about the local leaders because by now, they had realised that if they depended on others, they might have to wait for some more years to get clean water. They themselves arranged for meetings in the village and decided to have tap-water connection from a safe well identified by the PSI team. 

Villagers lay pipeline to connect the safe well in the outskirts to the water tank (Source:Puja Singh)Thanks to the villagers’ awareness about having clean water, they decided unanimously to place the water tank near the primary school and anganwadi in the village, so the children receive safe water. They started working together under the guidance of PSI. Within a few months, all preparations were done. A water user group was  formed, a bank account was opened and the rules for operation and maintenance were decided. A 1400-ft-long pipeline was laid with one end connected with the safe well in the outskirts of the village and the other end connected with the water supply tank placed in front of the primary school as per the villager’s decision.

Finally, on March 22, 2016 the water supply system was inaugurated. Today, there are 150 households that are receiving water from this supply tank. Besides, there is a primary school and an anganwadi that are using this water. The anganwadi centre is a part of the Indian public health care system and provides basic health care in the villages. In all, there are around 150 students and 800 people who are benefitting from the safe water supply. Even the mid-day meal for these children is cooked using this water. The contaminated well water is no longer used. The hand pump and the government supply water are used for washing and cleaning purposes. The same water man operates the motor pump every day.

Finally, the villagers of Bankpura have access to clean drinking water (Source: Puja Singh)

Bankpura is now an empowered village. This programme supported by Frank Water, United Kingdom has helped increase people’s skills, knowledge and confidence, and instill in them a belief that they can make a difference. It has brought the villagers together by getting them to work around the common issue of water. It has also encouraged them to take decisions for the benefit of the society. 

The child mortality data of UNICEF shows that about a half of child mortality under five years in the world are concentrated in five countries and India is one of these countries. Water saves lives. Access to clean and safe water is crucial to a community’s development. 

Finally, the villagers of Bankpura have access to clean drinking water. In the long run, it will certainly improve their health and the quality of their life. 

The author, Anita Sharma, is with Peoples’ Science Institute, Dehradun. This write up is a collation of the ongoing work by the PSI team that includes Dr. Anil Gautam, Puja Singh, Dalpat and Heena.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of India Water Portal. 

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