Himmothan Pariyojana's drinking water and sanitation (WATSAN) interventions in Uttarakhand

In 2001, the Himmothan Pariyojana (HMP) programme was initiated to work on rural development issues in collaboration with the Government of Uttarakhand, as formalised by a 10-year MoU between the two in 2004.

One of the first programmes to be initiated was a large-scale water and sanitation programme (WATSAN) which would bring drinking water to villages with the most severe scarcity, coupling it with a hundred per cent sanitation coverage. It was decided that the drinking water schemes would only be gravity schemes (bringing water from a higher source, usually a fresh water spring through a pipeline to the village using only gravity), and the sanitation units would be simple, adapted to local usage and long-term sustainability.

Although Uttarakhand, blessed with mighty glaciers, perennial rivers and excellent rainfall, appears to be a water rich state, the unique topography of the region implies immediate runoff of all precipitation downhill, and straight out of the state. Water flows are rapid, and almost impossible to restrain. The lack of flat land implies the lack of storages, which in turn implies local water scarcity. Big dams have, and continue to be constructed; submerging valley after fertile valley, but the benefits of these humongous storages rarely reach their nearest villages.

Ironically, many villages in Tehri district have neither water, sanitation, nor proper electricity. While Uttarakhand serves the water demands of other states of northern India, villages and towns in Uttarakhand are facing a serious and growing water crisis. Drinking water in particular is a scarce commodity, and the mountain landscape is dotted with women and children walking miles to collect drinking water from natural springs.