Resources: Water & sanitation for the flood affected

The article provides a concise look at precautions, useful resources and general tips regarding drinking water, sanitation, relief measures in the flood affected regions.

Parineeta Dandekar spent some time to find resources on the web for people involved in relief efforts in flood situations.The following provides a concise look at precautions, useful resources and general tips regarding drinking water, sanitation, relief measures in the flood affected regions. Water and Sanitation during floods: Some resources for relief workers and flood affected population With more than 300,000 people in relief camps and two mega relief camps planned in Bihar, consideration of issues related to water and sanitation is urgent. Epidemics and water borne diseases can spread rapidly and easily in the present situation.The information below is collected from various sources and aims to help of flood affected population, people in relief camps, volunteers, relief workers working in Bihar. Relief and aid workers should take the necessary precautions to assure their health and safety while working on rescue and clean up procedures. While conducting rescue and clean up operations, it should be assumed that the all surfaces have been contaminated with disease-causing organisms. This important assumption must be considered in decisions involving personal safety of rescue and cleanup personnel . ( for more information, please see here) Personal Protection Measures ( For more information, please see here)

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  1. Be very cautious while entering in a water current more than knee high. If entering flowing flood waters is essential, make sure that there is someone on the shore a a lookout for you.
  2. Driving car on flooded roads is dangerous. Water as shallow as two feet can wash away a car.
  3. Only individuals necessary for rescue operations and cleanup should be in affected areas. Persons with respiratory health problems (e.g., asthma, emphysema) should not perform the clean up.
  4. Whenever possible, boots and rubber gloves should be worn . In cases where rigorous splashing of contaminated water may occur, a dust mask and eye protection should also be worn.
  5. Stay well clear of any downed or damaged power lines. Establish a safe distance from the lines and report the incident to the responsible authority.
  6. Do not smoke, eat or drink during clean up operations.
  7. A tetanus booster is recommended every 10 years. If you are in need of a tetanus immunization, contact the medical officer in the relief camp.
  8. Flood waters may contain fecal material from overflowing sewage systems, and agricultural and industrial byproducts. If you have any open cuts or sores that will be exposed to flood water, keep them as clean as possible by washing well with soap to control infection. If a wound develops redness, swelling, or drainage, seek immediate medical attention.
  9. Do not allow children play in flood waters.
  10.  See to it that stale food is not served at the camps.
  11. Col. Marathe from the Disaster Management Cell , Yashada, Pune, stressed the importance of keeping an anti-venom kit at hand for all the relief workers. Snake bite is a common phenomenon in floods and the best time saver is the use of a truncate above the bite, before getting immediate medical assistance. He has further advised not to cut or try and suck blood out, as these may have dangerous consequences.
  12. Before embarking on rescue or clean up operations, do not forget to carry an emergency kit consisting of a portable radio, spare batteries, a torch, food like biscuits/energy bars/gur and a bottle of drinking water.

Drinking Water:

Minimum drinking water requirement per person per day is 5 litres. Daily activities like cooking, toilet use, hand washing etc. require a minimum of 20 litres of water. This means that we will have to make provision for at least about 60,00,000 litres safe drinking water daily to the relief camps. Considering the the entire state is reeling under the crisis, this is a herculean task to manage. The situation highlights the importance of point of use treatments like bleach, alum, etc. The treatment should be cost effective and fast.

1)Using Sodium Hypochlorite ( bleach). Bleach ( Sodium Hypochlorite) is cheap and easily available domestic cleaner which is widely used for disinfection of drinking water and personal hygiene during floods.

Some tips for using Bleach: Never mix Bleach with any other domestic cleaning agent ( especially one containing ammonia).Wear rubber boots, rubber gloves, and eye protection while working with bleach. Try not to breathe bleach fumes.

  • To treat clear drinking water:

Use about 1/8 teaspoons bleach ( approximately 0.75 ml ) for 1 gallon ( nearly 4 litres of water. Let the water stand for 30 minutes before using it.

  •  In case of cloudy drinking water, add ¼ teaspoon bleach per I gallon ( approximately 4 litres) and let it stand for 30 minutes before using.

In case of water containers and cans to store water:

  1. Mix soap and clean water in container.
  2. Shake or stir to clean inside of container.
  3. Rinse container.
  4. Mix 1 teaspoon (4.9 mL) bleach per 1 cup (240 mL) water and pour it in the container.
  5. Cover the container and shake so the solution touches all inside surfaces.
  6. Cover and let stand for 30 minutes.
  7. Rinse with clean water It is advised that the containers should be cleaned and disinfected every alternate day.

Some suggestions made through UN Solutions Exchange team were as follows: ( For very useful details and contacts, please see here) NaDCC

Tablets: Available at Water Chem Laboratories,
11-6-652/1, 1st Floor,
Red Hills,
Hyderabad 50004
Andhra Pradesh;
Tel: 91-040-3300428/6508696;
Fax: 91-040-3300428

Produces NaDCC tablets, 33 mg tables can purify approximately 20 litres of non-turbid water, used by the Assam Public Health and Engineering Department Sinking Handpumps ( from : Atal Behari Sharma, Camp: Simrahi, Supaual): In cases where there are enough pumps in the flood affected area, it is one of the fastest and easiest way is to provide drinking water Saree Method (from Zahir Abbas, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Silchar): Local method of purifying water used in Bangladesh, where people use a normal length saree, fold it into eight sections, put it on top of a vessel, and pour water through it into the vessel.

PUR(R) Purifier of Water: ( Contact: Procter and Gamble at http://www.pg.com/getintouch/index.shtml) Simple, cost-effective home-based water purification system that removes dirt and disease-causing pathogens from drinking water within minutes, comes in a sachet- simultaneously removes coagulation and turbidity and disinfects.

Sanitation: Concentration of a large number of people at limited sites, compromised immune systems, barely managable sanitation and water supply situation, are ideal conditions for rapid spread of water borne diseases like diarrhea, cholera and typhoid. These diseases are responsible for high mortality and morbidity rate in developing countries and are all spread through faecal–oral or skin penetration. Children under five years of age are most at risk from communicable diseases since their immune systems have not developed. Col. Marathe, from Disaster Management Cell, Yashada, Pune stressed the importance of maintaining hand hygiene in the relief camps. Relief workers and affected population in the camps must wash their hands with soap before meals and after using the toilet. He advised that shallow trench latrines should be dug out in areas where the usage will be less than 5 days. In areas, where the toilets will be in use for more than 5 days, deep trench latrines ( minimum depth 6 feet, width: 1 ½ feet, length: 3 feet) should be dug.The trenches should be covered with fresh earth after every use and the toilets should be disinfected with disinfectant powders like Gammaxine, twice daily. The toilets should be minimum 100 feet away from the relief camps and should be built on the downwind flanks so that the wind carries away foul odour.

Choice of toilets : Some Options: During the Tsunami in 2005, Gramalaya in coordination with Water Aid India, developed a unique kind of polypropylene pan especially suited for rural areas where there is severe scarcity of water. This 'rural pan' has a steep slope (28 degree) towards defecation hole (3 inches). Due to this only 2 liters of water per person is used for flushing. It is easy to install in rural areas with mason's help. The specific poly material is easy to clean and maintain. Important factors for use include minimal use of water for flushing associated with its low cost, bulk packing and transportation option with no losses through breakage and easy availability in the remote areas (Click here)

Some Important Contacts:

  • Disaster Management Division, Bihar  Sri R. K. Singh, IAS, Principal Secretary.Tel: 2205399 (R). Mobile: 94310-19099 Sri Pratyaya Amrit, IAS, Additional CommissionerTel: 2222456 (R). Mobile: 94318-15833. Sri P. N. Rai, IPS, Special Secretary.Tel: 2205455 (R). Mobile: 94310-11283
  • Center for Disaster Management, YASHADA, Pune  Phone Number: 91-20-5608000 Col. Marathe:0-9850125736

Download the resource document as a doc file: Water & Sanitation for the Flood Affected

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