Solution Exchange discussion: Alternative Water and Sanitation Solutions - Experiences; Examples

Compiled by Nitya Jacob, Resource Person and Sunetra Lala, Research Associate

From Eklavya Prasad, Megh Pyne Abhiyan, Patna and Himanshu Kulkarni, Advanced Centre for Water Resources Development and Management, Pune

Posted 10 October 2011

Megh Pyne Abhiyan (MPA) and the Advanced Centre for Water Resources Development and Management (ACWADAM) are working in 5 districts on alternative and sustainable drinking water and sanitation security in the flood prone areas of North Bihar . These also have three groundwater contamination problems - Iron, Arsenic and microbial contamination. Groundwater is commonly the only source of perennial drinking water. During floods, most of the handpumps get submerged, silted up or are damaged by the gush of flood waters. People staying on the embankments are often victims to water borne diseases.

Ignorance about the drinking water quality has strengthened peoples' belief and faith on the safety and feasibility of groundwater. A Government of India report on water quality-affected habitations claims that in Bihar , out of a total of 107,642 habitations, 34,909 habitations (32.4 per cent) get contaminated water. During floods, the displaced population that finds refuge in temporary dwellings is bereft of basic facilities. During non-flood periods, most people defecate in the open. A marginal percentage of the population uses toilets; however, almost all of these facilities are useless during floods. Additionally, the toilets already constructed may not represent the optimal solution given the shallow water table which characterises the region.

Some of the alternatives we are trying out for water include modifying age-old grain storage structures, known as kothi, as rainwater storage facilities by local communities, and reviving and modifying dug-wells to be safe water sources both during and after floods. We are also promoting the use of local building material, especially bamboo, for toilets. We plan to develop these further. Accordingly, we request SE-Water members to please share their experiences regarding the following:

  •         Is there any information regarding alternative and sustainable drinking water and sanitation solutions that has been executed in other regions of India ?
  •         What are the different drinking water and sanitation interventions being promoted in flood prone areas of alluvial regions specifically with Iron, Arsenic and bacteriological contamination in groundwater?
  •         Are there any institutional mechanisms and processes that can be adopted to promote appropriate drinking water and sanitation utilities during floods and during dry periods?

Your inputs will be important in helping us to collect information about similar interventions and for linking and cross learning. It will also help in thinking of a way forward with people already working on such issues related to WATSAN in similar eco zones. 

Responses were received, with thanks, from

1.     Dinesh Kumar, Institute of Resource Analysis and Policy, Hyderabad (Response 1) (Response 2)

2.     Himanshu Kulkarni and Eklavya Prasad, ACWADAM, Pune and Megh Pyne Abhiyan, Patna

3.     Sureshkumar. S, CSIR - National Institute for Interdisciplinary Science and Technology (NIIST), Trivandrum

4.     Abhishek Mendiratta, Jupiter Knowledge Management and Innovative Concepts Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi

5.     Suman K Apparusu, Change Planet Partners Climate Innovation Foundation, Hyderabad

6.     M Jahangir, Fresh Water Action Network , Pakistan

7.     Krishnan Srinivasaraghavan, Technology Transfer Services Group, Asian and Pacific Center for Transfer of Technology, New Delhi

8.     Yvonne OtineoMedia Volunteer, Orissa

9.     Shrikant Limaye, UNESCO-IUGS-IGCP Project 523 "GROWNET", Pune

10. Lalit SharmaInstitute of Rural Research and Development, Gurgaon

11. Prakash Kumar, DFID SWASTH, Patna

12. Rahul Pathak, CSR and Disaster Management Cell, Aquaplus Ltd., Pune

13. Sujoy Chaudhury, GOAL India Field Office, Kolkata

14. M. M. Sharma, International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-tropics, Patancheru, Hyderabad

15. J.P.Maithani, Alaknanda Ghaati Shilpi Federation, Uttarakhand (Response 1) (Response 2)

16. Neha Bajaj, AECOM India Pvt. Ltd., Gurgaon

17. Rita Savla, Radhee Disaster and Education Foundation, Mumbai

18. Jos Raphael, Mazhapolima, Thrissur

19. Asit Nema, Foundation for Greentech Environmental Systems, New Delhi 

Summary of Responses

The search for alternative drinking water and sanitation approaches continues through this discussion and leads into a workshop in Patna on 30 November 2011. Most of the alternatives for drinking water suggested have to do with rainwater harvesting, but there are many options for treating groundwater to make it fit to drink. For sanitation, there seem to be only a few alternatives to mainstream options available under the Total Sanitation Campaign and regular toilets. 

In the flood-prone districts of North Bihar , people have gravitated towards groundwater as it is easy to use and systems to extract groundwater are fairly maintenance free. However, the groundwater has arsenic, iron and bacterial contamination. Therefore, any treatment system needs to handle three kinds of impurities and produce enough water for either household or community use. The other source is rainwater that is collected and stored in secure tanks to prevent contamination for drinking.

Some of the water purification systems that can work in the particular situation are:

1.      The Kanchan Arsenic Filter that has two removal units: The arsenic and the pathogen removal unit

2.      The JalNirmal Arsenex sachet that removes turbidity, arsenic and iron from drinking water

3.      Arsenic Removal Systems that are attached to handpumps

4.      INDION Jalshudhi - Low-cost drinking water purification has eliminates bacteria and turbidity

5.      Water Purification Unit for Safe Drinking water developed by Ion Exchange India to meet the critical need for safe drinking water during that  can treat any kind and quality of surface or high salinity ground water to produce drinking

6.      Solar-powered Water Purification System developed by EnergyQuest , USA that can treat any kind of water

7.      Water purifier developed by the Polymer Division of National Chemical Laboratory, Pune , India that requires no electricity, which can be set up in 10 minutes in the remotest areas, and that filters out even viruses using ultra filtration

8.      Dr. Ashok Gadgil of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, USA , has developed a highly efficient water purification system which delivers up to four gallons potable water per minute. The water flows by gravity through a trough below an ultraviolet light that kills most viruses and bacteria present in the water

9.      Boiling water for 3-5 minutes, that kills any disease-causing organisms, including bacteria, cysts such as Giardia and Cryptospyridium, and viruses

10.   Sodis, in which water in transparent bottles is kept in bright sunlight for 4-6 hours

11.   Chlorination with household bleach, adding 4 drops to a litre of water and letting it stand for 30 minutes

12.   Researchers from the Nanyang Technological University 's (NTU) Institute of Environmental Science and Engineering , Singapore , have developed a portable water filtration system for use in disaster zones. Powered by a bicycle, the unit uses a mechanical pump and fine membranes to filter water, rendering it safe for drinking straight from the tap

13.   The Solar Cube, a cooperative project by Spectra Watermakers, Inc., of San Raphael , California , and Trunz Metallchnik AG of Switzerland . This can provide up to 10,000 litres of clean drinking water per day from polluted water or salt water

Handpumps in flooded areas can be sanitized by sealing the area around the piping and chlorination. Rooftop rainwater harvesting, as demonstrated in an example from Haryana, can provide water for several months for a few hundred families. These systems can be used both during emergencies and normal times. In Tamil Nadu, people collect rainwater in surface ponds called ooranis that are fenced to keep out animals; some are linked to slow sand filters through which drinking water is drawn. Oorani water can be tested for bacteria, but being rainwater will be free of iron and arsenic. If bacteria are found, it can be chlorinated. Water from such surface storage structures may be turbid that can be treated with moringa seeds or alum to coagulate the suspended matter.

In Uttarakhand, alternative sources include naulahs or Dharas. However, water quality tests show some of these are polluted by animals grazing and sewage from habitations in the catchments. For the first, it is necessary to demarcate catchments and keep animals out. For the second, the Uttarakhand Pey Jal Sansadhan Evam Nirman Nigam is planning to improve sewage treatment facilities in towns.

In Kerala, the state government’s programme Mazhapolima has helped improve water quality and quantity in over 7,000 households. Under this, rainwater collected from roofs is channeled directly into wells that people use for drinking and other domestic purposes. The average cost is just Rs 5,000 per household.

What also comes out is the close link between sanitation and water, especially alternative sources. One of the guiding principles of alternative water and sanitation approaches is to separate and minimize waste, as has been tried in Sweden. A lot of the alternative sources are actually traditional ones, that have fallen into disuse as piped water systems and tubewells have proliferated. However, these are vulnerable to contamination from poorly designed and operated sanitation schemes. Therefore, several alternative sanitation approaches are suggested, that can address this problem:

1.      Peepoo, individual packet latrines in which faeces are collected and disposed in bio-degradable bags. They also compost the faeces

2.      Bucket or elevated toilet that is an elevated structure over a tank lined with a large replaceable plastic bag

3.      Chemical toilets that have a tank with a chemical to aid decomposition

4.      Trench toilets, where faeces are covered with soil

5.      Elevated pit latrines, built on a 3-5 foot high mound with the slopes stabilized to prevent erosion

6.      Ecosan latrines that have an elevated structure over a container or bin which stores organic waste for decomposition

7.      Combined Pit latrine with two pits, one direct and the other offset connected by a PVC pipe. This can be used all year round, and even during floods and is suitable for shallow water table areas

8.      Floating toilet that is an adaptation of the ecosan latrine with a replaceable container to accumulate excreta and a jerrycan to store urine

All these toilet options need to be de-sludged. An excellent suggestion is the manually operated diaphragm pump. This can draw out the sludge from a latrine in 15-20 minutes and dispose it at a certain distance, or into a tanker. The tanker can be transported to a non-flooded area for emptying. It removes waste safely, can be assembled locally, does not involve any contact with sludge and is reduces labour. It is ideal of emergencies and camps.

In coastal areas where salt-water ingress into aquifers and rivers is common, farmers can salt-resistant varieties of paddy and alternate it with shrimp cultivation. During the rainy season, they can grow paddy and in the dry season when salt water makes inroads, they can switch to shrimps. This is being tried out in some areas of Bangladesh. In the Khazaan lands of Goa , farmers use simple yet ingenious sluice gates to simultaneously grow rice and shrimp.

Comparative Experiences


Institute of Rural Research and Development (IRRD) builds rainwater harvesting structure in schools to meet drinking water needs , Mewat (from  Lalit Sharma, Institute of Rural Research and Development, Gurgaon)

Mewat is a semi-arid region and receives around 500 mm of rainfall. IRRD created a rainwater harvesting-based drinking water supply system in a school in Patkhori village which used to be solely dependent on erratic and expensive water tankers. As a result, now the drinking water requirements of more than 325 students and teachers are met through rainwater stored in storage tanks which after filtration through bio-sand filters, flows through the taps. Read more.


Mazhapolima (rain bounty programme) leads to well water recharge, Thrissur (from Jos Raphael, Mazhapolima, Thrissur)

In Kerala wells were going dry during summer for the past couple of decades. To tackel this, Mazhapolima, an open dug well recharge programme, was initiated by the District Administration in 2008. Roof rain water is collected through PVC rain gutters and pipes and directed to open dug well after simple filtration methods. Now nearly 7,000 Mazhapolima units have been established. Now open dug wells tend to get recharged to provide fresh water even for summer months. 


Farmers in Chitolmari sub-district cope with salinity by changing cropping pattern, Bangladesh (from Yvonne Otineo, Media Volunteer, Orissa)

A few years ago farmers here practiced only a single rice crop in the monsoons. Recently, various farming innovations have been implemented, allowing households to adapt to increasingly high salinity levels. They are now cultivating combinations of fish during monsoons and producing rice in winters. Farmers are using raised dikes for cultivation of vegetables. Growing volumes of vegetables in the region are stimulating trade and development of local collection markets.

Kalmar University optimally reuses grey water, Sweden (from Sureshkumar. S, CSIR - National Institute for Interdisciplinary Science and Technology (NIIST), Trivandrum)

A small-scale system combining separate sanitation and grey water reuse has been installed in the University. Grey water from wash basins and the kitchen is taken care of locally and treated by filtration through the system of ground filters and three open water ponds. The additional value of the ponds system is achieving nice, green area in the surroundings. After being treated with UV light the grey water is reused in the building for flushing toilets and washing hands.

Related Resources 

Recommended Documentation

From Suman K Apparusu, Change Planet Partners Climate Innovation Foundation, Hyderabad

Guidebook on technologies for disaster preparedness and mitigation

Guidebook; by Satyabrata Sahu; Asian and Pacific Centre for Transfer of Technology (APCTT); New Delhi;

Available at (PDF; Size: 775KB)

Offers a cross section of technology options covering all areas of disaster preparedness including water and sanitation

Sanitation in challenging environments – July 2010 edition of Waterlines

Journal; by IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre; The Netherlands; July 2010;

Available at

The articles in this edition cover in particular sanitation in flood-prone, coastal and riverbank communities and rainwater harvesting in water-scarce situations

Appropriate latrine solution for flood prone areas of Bangladesh

Compendium; by Abdus Sobhan; Sustainable Sanitation Alliance; Germany;

Available at (PDF; Size: 249.10KB)

A compendium of sanitation technology options for flood prone areas in Bangladesh. It details 9 field tested technologies and presents what worked and what did not

Water Pakistan

Article; by Name; Human Resource Development Society; Lahore, Pakistan; December 2010;

Available at

Discusses the faulty design of pit latrines constructed in flood affected areas of Pakistan, which led to contamination of groundwater

Patkhori School roof-water harvesting (from Lalit Sharma, Institute of Rural Research and Development, Gurgaon)

Report; by Institute of Rural Research and Development; Haryana;

Available at (PDF; Size: 500KB)

Discusses the roof-water harvesting (RWH) system that has been installed in the school              which collects and stores rainwater for drinking purposes

Online chlorination of hand pumps, Supaul district, Bihar (Rahul Pathak, CSR and Disaster Management Cell, Aquaplus Ltd., Pune)

Report; by Prasad Rasal; United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF); Patna; 2008;

Available at (PDF; Size: 104KB)

Describes an innovative low cost water treatment system which was installed by UNICEF and Oxfam in different camps of Supaul and Raghopur during the 2008 Kosi floods

From Sunetra Lala, Research Associate

Urban Slum Dwellers in Kenya and Bangladesh Benefit from using Peepoo Bags which are Self-sanitising and Biodegradable

Case Study; by Elisabeth V. Münch, Camilla Wirseen, Deepa Patel, Ashley Wheaton and Alexander Jachnow; Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit; Germany; 2009;

Available at (PDF; Size: 560KB)

Includes findings of an emerging toilet technology called “Peepoo” from field tests in urban slums of Kenya and Bangladesh, developed by the Swedish company Peepoople

Battling Water-borne Diseases in Cyclone-affected West Bengal

Article; by Jorge G. Caravotta; UNICEF; New Delhi; 2009;

Available at

Outlines the need for sustainable efforts at community and facility levels to support disaster affected people fight cholera and acute diarrheal diseases in a disaster situation

Innovations in Emergency Sanitation

Emergency Sanitation Workshop; Oxfam GB;

Available at

Highlights useful ideas on how to improve sanitation practices in a long-term, sustainable manner, which is also suitable for emergency situations

Environmental Health in Emergencies and Disasters: A Practical Guide

Guide; by B. Wisner and J. Adams; World Health Organisations; 2003;

Available at

Guide summarizes the essential aspects of environmental health management in disasters situations including water and sanitation services

Emergency Sanitation: Assessment and Programme Design

Guidelines; by Peter Harrey, Sohrab Baghri , Bob Reed; Loughborough University; 2003;

Available at$file/lou-water-02.pdf?openelement

Guidelines on emergency sanitation, aims to assist those involved in planning and implementing emergency sanitation programmes

Recommended Organizations and Programmes

University of Kalmar, Sweden (from Sureshkumar. S, CSIR - National Institute for Interdisciplinary Science and Technology, Trivandrum)

Högskolan i Kalmar, Kalmar SE-391 82, Sweden; Tel: 46-480-446000 ; Webbansvarig ;

Has installed a small-scale sanitation system combining separation of sanitation and grey water reuse

From Suman K Apparusu, Change Planet Partners Climate Innovation Foundation, Hyderabad

Asian and Pacific Center for Transfer of Technology, New Delhi

APCTT Building, C-2, Qutab Institutional Area, P.O.Box: 4575, New Delhi 110011; Tel: 91-11-26966509; Fax: 91-11-26856274;;;

Has a good selection of water purification technology solution for disaster and flood prone areas. Short briefs and contact references are all available on offer 

Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), Sweden

Kräftriket 2b, Stockholm SE 106 91, Sweden; Tel: 46-8-6747070; johan.kuylenstiernaSE@sei-international.org

Is leading a research project in collaboration with the WASH Institute, India, which focuses on sustainable sanitation solutions in areas experiencing recurrent flooding

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USA

1600 Clifton Rd. Atlanta, GA 30333, USA; Tel: 1-800-2324636; Fax: 1-888-2326348; cdcinfo@cdc.gov

Gives an overview of potential sanitation solutions, in the immediate term, for emergency response

Institute of Rural Research and Development, Haryana(from Lalit Sharma, Institute of Rural Research and Development, Gurgaon)

Plot No.34, Sector 44, Institutional Area, Gurgaon 122002, Haryana; Tel: 91-124-4744100; Fax: 91-124-4744123;

Has been involved in rainwater harvesting projects across schools of rural Haryana, including rooftop rainwater harvesting in schools

From Sunetra Lala, Research Associate

The Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council, Switzerland

International Environment House, 9 Chemin des Anémones, 1219 Châtelaine, Geneva, Switzerland; Tel: 41-22-9178657; Fax: 41-22-9178084;;

Multi-stakeholder partnership organization which promotes collaborations and works in the area of sanitation and hygiene promotion at the community level

Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods, USA

124 Church Road, Sherburne, NY 13460, Halti, USA;;

The organization works on preserving soil resources in Halti; has provided on its website information on the importance, use and construction of dry (urine-diverting) toilets

Recommended Portals and Information Bases

Technology4sme, Asian and Pacific Centre for Transfer of Technology, Location (from Krishnan Srinivasaraghavan, Technology Transfer Services Group, Asian and Pacific Center for Transfer of Technology, New Delhi); Contact Krishnan Srinivasaraghavan; Tel: 91-11-26966509;

Has a wide range of technologies that can be useful in disaster situations (including floods) and there are about 17 technologies related to water purification and sanitation

Sustainable Sanitation Alliance (SuSanA), Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit , Germany(from Suman K Apparusu, Change Planet Partners Climate Innovation Foundation, Hyderabad); Contact Title; Name; Job Designation; Tel: Telephone No.; Email

SuSanA came into existence in early 2007 and is an informal network of organisations who share a common vision on sustainable sanitation (from Sunetra Lala, Research Associate)

Portal has a good collection of cases, pilots and studies on mobile applications on water and sanitation and humanitarian relief useful for application to Indian context

Related Consolidated Replies

Management of Water and Sanitation during Disasters, from V. R. Raghavan, Oxfam GB, Kolkata (Experiences).Disaster Management Community and Water Community , Solution Exchange India .

Issued 13/06/2007. Available at, Size: 169 KB)

Explores solutions and experiences to sustain and manage water sources, mechanisms for excreta disposal, the issue of WATSAN and public health and hygiene during disasters

Water Purification Technologies for Flood Affected Bihar, from G. Padmanabhan, United Nation Development Programme (UNDP), New Delhi (Experiences; Referrals). Water Community and Disaster Community, Solution Exchange India,

Issued 9/0/2008. Available at  (PDF,367KB)

Discusses experiences and information regarding usage of various water purification technologies, especially those that can be used in Bihar

New Approaches to Better Sanitation during Emergencies, from Rajeev R. Rana, United Nations Children's Fund, Supaul, Bihar (Examples; Advice). Water Community and Disaster Community, Solution Exchange India,

Issued 16/09/2009. Available at (PDF,116KB)

Discusses new examples and approaches to sanitation that can improve access and usage during normal times and emergencies

Seeking ideas for mobile applications, from Deepak Menon, India Water Portal, Bangalore (Examples; Experiences). Water Community and Disaster Community, Solution Exchange India,

Issued 24/10/2011. Available at  (PDF,521KB)

Discusses examples of mobile phone applications water and disaster management sector, especially for response to water related disasters such as floods and water and sanitation issues during emergencies

Ways to improve flood management in Orissa, from Ranjan Panda, Water Initiatives Odisha, Orissa (Advice; Examples). Water Community and Disaster Community, Solution Exchange India,

Issued 24/11/2011. Available at  (PDF,187KB)

Discusses if integrated river basin management systems, where the people take the centre stage of participation and governance, can help to improve flood management along rivers

Responses in Full 

Dinesh Kumar, Institute of Resource Analysis and Policy, Hyderabad (response 1)

I read the notes referenced in the query with a lot of interest. I appreciate the scientific studies the Advanced Centre for Water Resources Development and Management (ACWADAM) is carrying out on groundwater. The research and therefore also the debate about groundwater management are not new in this country. The big debate on management started in early 1990s (with major Ford Foundation grants to VIKSAT, TERI, and many academic/research institutions around the country—IIMA, BAU, Anna University , IRMA, TNAU) and followed by work of IWMI and ITP with SRTT support.

Some key research outputs and policy inputs for governments on groundwater management were available in the early 90s itself, for the government to act seriously. The research covered not only geo-hydrology, but also social, economics, legal, institutional and policy aspects. But, nothing happened! Most of the things we are discussing today is a rehash (artificial recharge of groundwater, groundwater law, state legislation, pricing of electricity, community based regulations, water rights reform, etc.), though some empirical work has been done in the recent past to substantiate some of the arguments in favour of or against some of the management alternatives put forth.

While we appreciate ACWADAM’s initiatives in mapping groundwater, I am a little intrigued about the role of the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) in the country. As I understand, they are supposed to do the geo-hydrological mapping, and have been trying to demystify this science of geo-hydrology, by showing groundwater typologies. They are a national level agency, with a lot of scientific manpower, and with a good presence in almost all states. Regional and district level geo-hydrological maps are now available for many states.

With so much knowledge about aquifers generated over the past 40 years (by various scientific and technical agencies), to me the real scientific contribution should now come in the form of identifying spatial patterns in groundwater resource characteristics and then finding out ways to map the resource very cost effectively just with the level of accuracy needed for taking management decisions. This is definitely not the age for carrying out pumping tests for determining specific yield and transmissivity.

I am surprised to see that the whole science of groundwater is mystified even for a region where the aquifers of the alluvial plain are supposed to be highly homogeneous (Gangetic alluvial plains). What we need to do there is to construct “water resource and land use typologies”, rather than groundwater typologies, as what changes is the amount of rainfall and surface drainage characteristics, and not so much of groundwater (while natural quality issue needs to be taken into consideration).

Also, I do not understand people's increasing obsession with ground water for drinking use, when quality is a serious problem. If the region is flood prone (with high rainfall and a lot of water in the flood plains), can’t we have a strategy to use this?  I am sure the treatment cost of surface water here would be far less than that for groundwater containing arsenic. We recently heard a few policy makers talking about artificial groundwater recharge in the flood prone areas of north Bihar !

Again, I am a little surprised by your argument for a “national strategy for groundwater”. While people have been arguing for local and regional strategies in view of the wide variations in groundwater resource endowment across the country and the use intensities across space, what do you really mean by a “national strategy” for groundwater?

Himanshu Kulkarni and Eklavya Prasad, ACWADAM, Pune and Megh Pyne Abhiyan, Patna

We thank Mr. Dinesh Kumar for his insights and agree largely with what he has said. We wish to clarify our position on three counts:

1. Much of our work on groundwater is at scales for which secondary information (in the form of aquifer maps. resource maps is simply not available. We have had to generate these maps, in many cases, where we have used secondary information as base-level information available only at regional scales. Moreover, other data in the form of secondary long-term water levels is simply not representative enough. Our experience even in the flood-prone region of Bihar has shown that there is more diversity in groundwater conditions than what we ourselves had anticipated earlier - considering the fact that alluvial groundwater systems are considered to be quite homogeneous in nature.

2. As regards the national groundwater strategy, we believe we need a disaggregated understanding, which is what Mr. Kumar also argues for in his last paragraph. In no way are we saying that work should be at the national "scale". Our own work, as indicated above, is at the scale of villages and aquifers. CGWB, India 's premier agency working on groundwater and some State Agencies have done excellent work on groundwater, but much of this work is at fairly regional scales and we often find variations in interpretations on aquifers and aquifer characteristics at these different scales. A national strategy on groundwater would consolidate work at all scales onto a common platform to make it accessible. 

3. Dependence on groundwater (through hand pumps) for drinking purpose continues in north Bihar largely due to perceived convenience, easy access and near maintenance free system and moreover in the absence of practical and affordable alternatives. Therefore, despite the contamination (mainly arsenic, iron and E coli) the consumption continues unabated. In order to ensure safe access to drinking water, it is necessary to deal with present circumstances by either reviving solutions that existed in the past and has the potential of providing potable water, such as dug wells or innovations concerning treatment that can be adopted and managed locally. The feasibility of alternative like treatment of river water and its distribution in rural locales has yet to be established in the context of north Bihar, and till that happens, solutions for accessing safe water has to be groundwater based.

Sureshkumar. S, CSIR - National Institute for Interdisciplinary Science and Technology (NIIST), Trivandrum

There are several reasons to reconsider present urban water and wastewater policy including limitations of a conventional sanitary system, better understanding of nature and its principles gained during last decades, and the goal of society to achieve sustainable development

Water is misused in a water-based sanitary system. So are other resources (e.g., nutrients) which are essential to agricultural production. It takes much more than an engineering approach and related technicalities to change the present sanitation system. Technical re-design of sanitary infrastructure needs to be supported by political agreements to a change; and the policy issues are: What are the alternatives? Who is responsible for the development of new solutions? How can “real life” tests be supported? What does the change involve? There is a great need for a discussion concerning future.

The arguments to change present urban water and wastewater policy originate from limitations of a conventional, water-based sanitation system, better understanding of nature and its principles gained during last decades, and the goal of society to achieve sustainable development. The guiding principles for the new designs of sanitary systems can be as follows:

        health protection, avoiding spreading of pathogenic micro-organisms excreted by humans

        aiming to close biogeochemical flows of nutrients through recycling

        saving water resources, abandoning drinking water use for excreta transportation

        economical management of resources, including environmental costs

        compatibility with the already existing infrastructure

        possibility to achieve acceptance of alternative technical solutions by the society

Rules to be applied to the management of human waste are: “don’t mix”, “don’t flush” and “don’t waste”. A separation  sanitation means keeping streams of faeces, urine, and grey  water separated for the purpose of a different treatment and disposal of each. This approach requires adjustments in plumbing as well as new types of sanitary equipment, e.g., new types of toilets. Both types of  sanitation are to enable recycling of nutrients without their contamination with hazardous substances, reduction or avoidance of main water use for excreta transportation, as well as local treatment of grey  water. Here, it is worth reflecting on examples of ecological villages where new sanitary systems designs are being tested. One of them is the ecological village Toarp. Swedish sanitary systems are divided into the following three general categories:

        Dry toilets with common treatment of urine and faeces, grey  water treated in a three chamber sedimentation tank followed by ground infiltration

        Separating toilets, urine collected for further use as a fertilizer, faeces composted, grey water treated in a three chamber sedimentation tank followed by ground infiltration

        Separating toilets as above, grey water treated in a biological mini sewage treatment plant followed by retention in artificial ponds

Urine separation is an example of a technical solution, which could potentially support more efficient nutrients recycling, decreased water consumption, and increased energy efficiency. Another example of a new sanitation system design might be a vacuum system. The vacuum system for the collection and transport of faeces with bio-waste and semi-centralised anaerobic treatment has been designed for a settlement of 300 inhabitants in the city of Lubeck , Germany .

A promising, possibly sustainable  sanitation  concept for humid urban areas is: source control of faeces and urine with vacuum toilets and co-collection of bio-waste to anaerobic digesters; decentralised aerobic treatment of grey  water; infiltration of storm  water with a trough and drain trench system to avoid a centralised sewerage system. The separation  sanitation system might include the function of grey  water reuse.

A small-scale system combining separation  sanitation and grey  water reuse has been installed in a building of the Technical Faculty, Kalmar University College, Sweden. Grey water obtained from hand–wash basins and the kitchen is taken care of locally and treated by a filtration through the system of ground filters and three open water ponds. The additional value of the ponds system is achieving nice, green area in the building's closest surroundings. After being treated with UV light grey water is reused in the building for flushing toilets and washing hands.

Technical know-how is an indispensable condition to achieve improvements in present day resource management, but it alone is not sufficient. As stated above, research on different aspects of new sanitary systems is going on, knowledge and experience is gained, examples that indicate feasibility of new systems exist. This is, however, not enough to create changes in the present system. What is needed is a reconsideration of present urban water and wastewater policies. The struggle between present practice and alternatives is up till now successfully won by the present one. Existence of the present infrastructure is a strong advantage for the conventional system over the alternatives. Hence incentives and policy support are needed for new solutions, as above.

Abhishek Mendiratta, Jupiter Knowledge Management and Innovative Concepts Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi

a.      The Kanchan Arsenic Filter is comprised of two removal units: the arsenic removal unit and the pathogen removal unit. The arsenic removal unit is consisted of a plastic diffuser basin, iron nails and some brick chips. The pathogen removal unit is consisted of sand and gravel layers.

b.      The Jal Nirmal Arsenex sachet is useful for removal of turbidity, Arsenic and Iron from drinking water. The 2.5gms sachet of Jal Nirmal Arsenex is sufficient for treatment of 15 litres of drinking water.( The Arsenic is reduced from 500ppb to less than 10ppb, Iron is reduced from 5ppm to less than 1ppm and turbidity is reduced from 400NTU to less than 5NTU after filtration through thick cotton cloth) Treatment process also leaves Residual chlorine of 0.2 to 0.5 PPM in the water. This takes care of bacterial content in water. Total treatment time is only half an hour. You get crystal clear safe potable drinking water within half an hour

c.      Arsenic Removal Systems (Up to 200 l/h). Also available as handpump attachment. Arsenic reduced to less than 50 ppb WHO limit. Iron Removal Systems (400 - 25,000 l/h). Also available as handpump attachment. Dissolved iron less than 0.3 ppm (inorganic) WHO limit

d.      Rain water harvesting

e.      INDION Jalshudhi - Low-cost drinking water purification

f.       INDION Jalshudhi is a simple, convenient and ready-to-use product which purifies water to give 100% bacteria-free water and even eliminates E-coli. The residual purifying effect lasts several hours. Moreover, it is able to settle suspended impurities and is therefore ideal for purifying muddy, turbid water. The Product has been successfully tested by Government approved laboratories.


Suman K Apparusu, Change Planet Partners Climate Innovation Foundation, Hyderabad

Some references that the community might find useful in the overall context of the query.

1)     APCTT has a good selection of water purification technology solution offers for disaster and flood prone areas. Short briefs and contact references are all available on the offers.  National Chemical Laboratories Pune, Ion Exchange India , Ecosphere Technologies' Ecos Lifelink products are noteworthy. The link can be accessed here  (

2)     Guidebook on Technologies for Disaster Preparedness and Mitigation offers a cross section of technology options covering all areas of preparedness including water and sanitation. The link can be accessed here  (

3)     SEI leads innovative project on sanitation in India : The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) has granted 3.9 million Swedish crowns for a three-year project on sustainable sanitation in flooded areas in India . The research project is led by Stockholm Environment Institute in collaboration with the WASH Institute, India , and focuses on sustainable sanitation solutions in areas experiencing recurrent flooding.

4)     Sustainable Sanitation Alliance : Produced an interesting compendium of sanitation technology options for flood prone areas in Bangladesh . The compendium, details 9 field tested technologies and presents what worked and what did not in terms of options acceptance, institutional  arrangements among others. The link can be accessed here (

5)     Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Outlines the sanitation options in the short and medium term. The link can be accessed here (

6)     Sanitation Updates mentions Waterlines July 2010 edition about sanitation and water options in challenging environments. The link can be accessed here (

M Jahangir, Fresh Water Action Network , Pakistan

Regarding the supply of improved water, in certain camps in Pakistan where nothing else has worked, clean water was supplied with water tanker for 2-3 months at certain sites in Sindh. Most of the flood affected families move on to the embankments. In  Pakistan  we try to accommodate them in schools since most floods occur during the school holiday season. 

These embankments are surrounded by flood water which is chemically clean, has silt and may/ may not have microbiological contaminants. We have tried/planned installing shallow (20-30 feet deep) hand pumps. All you need to be careful about is good shrouding. We could seal the gap between sides of the bore and pipe with cloth soaked in plaster of paris and cement. Additionally, having a cemented side to avoid mixing with fresh surface water is important. 

Regarding sanitation, a serious mistake while making pit latrines was also observed in flooded areas of Sindh, the observations were recorded and reported at  by HRDS, an NGO working in flood hit area.

Krishnan Srinivasaraghavan, Technology Transfer Services Group, Asian and Pacific Center for Transfer of Technology, New Delhi

Our organization, the Asian and Pacific Centre for Transfer of Technology, a Regional Centre of United Nations ESCAP has developed an on-line technology transfer market known as Technology4sme ( This on-line facility acts as a platform for buyers and sellers of technology and facilitates information exchange and building partnerships. In this website, we have created a specific section on Disaster Management and Mitigation Technologies ( to help professionals and institutions involved in Disaster Management and Mitigation efforts. In this section, we have compiled a wide range of technologies that could be useful in a disaster situation (including floods) and there are about 17 technologies related to water purification and sanitation. 

Though we have not done much on alternative technologies for water purification and sanitation, I thought I could share this information which could be of interest to you.

Dinesh Kumar, Institute of Resource Analysis and Policy, Hyderabad (response 2)

Responding to Dr. Himanshu Kulkarni , we need to acknowledge the fact that "water management is also about economics". I am sure it will be of great interest to the water community to know what will be the "actual cost and time" in doing the village level groundwater mapping and then aggregating it at the level of aquifers or basins, and how that will help improve our management decisions arrived at on the basis of data/information available at the regional level.

If the real social benefit of implementing a management decision based on scientifically more accurate data is far less than the cost of generating it, then it is meaningless to go for such data. We need to understand the trade-offs between scientific accuracy of data and marginal social return from use of the data.  This has been proven in the case of highly inflated “public health benefits” of following stringent wastewater reuse regulations for irrigation in the United States . The cost of treating wastewater to conform to stringent bacteriological quality was so high that it did not justify the public health benefit of reduced mortality through reduction in bacteriological contamination.                     

As regards water quality, though most of the drinking water schemes in Bihar are based on groundwater, there are serious water quality problems. Around 11,000 tested water sources from over a large number of habitations were found to be contaminated with iron, fluoride, arsenic, faecal coliforms, etc. There are no easy solutions (those which exist requires high capital and operating costs, which Bihar cannot afford) to treat arsenic or for that matter any other heavy metal in groundwater. Thus, it makes greater economic sense to spend money on developing and improving surface water based sources (that can be sustained) and making safe drinking water available to the poor people, than spending money on preparing village/aquifer level groundwater maps and reviving open dug wells (considered unsafe source).

Mapping groundwater, as a good academic exercise, needs to be welcomed, but may not produce significant social returns in certain contexts like ours. I sincerely hope I made my point clear at least this time around.

Yvonne OtineoMedia Volunteer, Orissa

I am sharing an example of the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF), which may be of relevance to this query. People living in the coastal areas of the Ganges River face large challenges in increasing food production and improving livelihoods in the face of climate change, yet farmers are showing that much can be accomplished, in spite of the apparently hostile living and farming conditions.

Two key factors threatening food security in the area are flooding and salinity. Flooding comes with devastating consequences; while the second, saline intrusion, can cause widespread crop damage, and contaminate groundwater supplies for both drinking and agricultural use.

During low river flows between November and May, saline water may penetrate as far as 270 km upstream, and affect an area of around 800,000 ha, causing some US$586 million in agricultural losses annually. The saline intrusion comes with an additional consequence of conflict - shrimp fishermen (mainly large scale) benefit from the brackish water brought on by saline intrusion, but rice farmers suffer as a consequence.

The CPWF experience in the Mekong Delta has shown that these conflicts can be mitigated through the introduction of saline tolerant rice varieties, embedded within a broader saline management system that relies on sluice gates and predictive modeling.

For example, in the Chitolmari sub-district of Bangladesh , an area covered by the newly launched Ganges Basin Development Challenge (BDC), various farming system innovations have already been implemented by farmers, allowing households to adapt to increasingly high salinity levels in some seasons.

A few years ago, farmers in this region practiced only a single rice crop in the monsoon period; now they are cultivating various combinations of fish (shrimp and other fish) during the monsoon and producing rice (boro) in the winter/dry season. Instead of being kept fallow, farmers are using raised dikes (bands between the rice plots) for cultivation of vegetables (bitter gourd, cucumber, tomato, cabbage and others) by extending a trellis over the water. Bamboo and nylon cord are used to grow creeper vegetables, such as cucumbers and gourds. In the cooler dry season, dikes are being used to grow winter vegetables like tomato and cabbage, and by raising dykes high enough above the water, farmers are able to reduce the impacts of salinity on dyke soils. Growing volumes of vegetables in the region are stimulating trade and development of local collection markets, where urban buyers are able to connect with farm produce.

CGIAR-implemented programmes, such as the WorldFish Center PRICE–GHER Project, CAARP Project and CSISA project and now the Ganges basin program of the CPWF Phase 2 are working with farmers to help identify, test and share such innovations.

These approaches show not only that the people living in this region can derive benefits but also that lessons can be shared more widely across the Ganges delta, as well as with other basins of the CGIAR Challenge Program for Water and Food. The Ganges Phase 2 research programme will focus on reducing poverty and strengthening livelihood resilience through improved water governance and management, and intensified and diversified agricultural and aquaculture systems, in coastal areas of the Ganges basin. The Ganges Basin Development Challenge is among the six priority Basin Development Challenges under the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF).

Shrikant LimayeUNESCO-IUGS-IGCP Project 523 "GROWNET", Pune

Dinesh Kumar from IRAP, Hyderabad has raised some important issues. We should note that:

1. Groundwater is a hidden source flowing through a complex, un-isotropic and un-homogeneous porous medium. In hard rocks, a dug well in one farm may irrigate sugarcane while another dug well in the adjoining farm may be almost dry. In the alluvial terrains of Bangladesh , groundwater from a tubewell contains high Arsenic and the casing pipe is painted red by the Government, while just 80-100 meters away, another tubewell gives water suitable for drinking purpose, and has green paint on the casing pipe.

2. Drawing water table maps or water quality maps with data from just a few wells, is therefore an academic exercise in many cases, without much practical application. Once, I refused to be a Ph D examiner for a Thesis in Groundwater Modeling in which the model was based on data from about 42 tubewells in about 50 sq kms area of heterogeneous alluvial deposits. I informed the guide and the student that such models may be OK for convincing politicians about over-exploitation but are not useful in forecasting their yields in future. The problem of over-exploitation is to be solved with a cooperative spirit at the village-meetings (Gram Sabha) and with a community effort for watershed development and recharge augmentation. Any futuristic planning for next 50 years must consider the probable change in climatic pattern and give importance to prepare the watershed through soil and water conservation activities, for absorbing the climatic shocks. Like in China , a mass programme of forestation of village watersheds has to be undertaken in India .

3. In the Yamuna alluvium, across from Delhi , there are pockets of saline water lenses. An attempt to map the saline pockets with a reasonable accuracy, from the data from existing tubewells, has failed.

4. Any water table contour map is just a snap-shot of a time-variant parameter. A pre-Monsoon and a post-Monsoon water map are useful for comparison. Here also, drawing continuous contours in-between the data points is often an over-simplification.

5. Considering the cost and the time for a water table map with reasonable accuracy just for a village, incorporating all the existing wells and drilling/digging new wells where data is scarce, the exercise is not worthwhile, unless research funds are available and an MSc or PhD degree is in view. The practical utility is limited. The benefit/cost ratio is very small.

Lalit Sharma, Institute of Rural Research and Development, Gurgaon

For flood-affected areas, I am enclosing a brief on the solution we adopted in a school. Hope this model may help as the storage of rain water is above the ground and supplemented with a bio-sand filter.

Patkhori School roof-water harvesting

Collecting water from distances was a time-consuming task and a restraining factor that kept many children (especially girls) out of school during their study hours in Patkhori school of Mewat (Haryana). The High School in Patkhori village had undergone several infrastructure improvements over the years, but this time it welcomed a particularly special and big change. With assistance from the S M Sehgal Foundation, a roof-water harvesting (RWH) system was installed to collect and store rainwater for drinking purposes. The RWH system at Patkhori School is a model project. It has potential to the rescue of schools that do not have any water source whatsoever. The system includes over ground rainwater storage tanks, pre-filter, bio-sand filters and drinking water storage tank.

Prior to this, the school used an 8,000-litre water tank filled with expensive tanker water (Rs. 500-600 per tanker of 5 kilolitres) or water shared from tube wells in farmers’ fields. But the quality and cleanliness of the tanker water was often suspect, and the water sharing proposition was subject to the farmers’ mercy. Further, the open storage tank was vulnerable to contamination and bacterial growth, and the lack of a filtration system posed significant risks. As a result this tank water was not used for drinking.

Now students and teachers take pride in describing the new RWH unit, which was set up with technical and monetary support from SM Sehgal Foundation. The unit is equipped with four storage tanks, two on each side of the school; when filled to capacity, the storage tanks collectively hold 1.08 lakh litres, enough to meet the drinking water requirements of around 325 students and teachers for about 8 months. Rainwater is collected from an area of 606 sq. m, with a total rainwater harvesting potential of 3.60 lakh litres per year, based on the average annual rainfall of 594 mm. Given the timing of the monsoon period, the tank can hold enough water for the whole year. In contrast, the old water tank lasted less than a month before it would have to be refilled.

The new RWH system has pre-filtration to remove all suspended impurities coming with rain water into storage and it also includes bio-sand filters that remove bacteriological contamination from the rainwater. Laboratory test results confirm that the water from the RWH unit is fit for drinking. 

Please see the PDF for this report with photographs., PDF, 500 Kb)

Prakash Kumar, DFID SWASTH, Patna

There is an urgent need to mainstream some of the tested alternative water and sanitation solutions. The alternative solutions are still peripheral and at pilot stage. Organizations who are working for the promotion of alternative/innovative solutions need to work closely with the respective government departments for its scale up.

DDWS, GOI has given a thrust by revising the national TSC guideline by including ecological sanitation as one of the options that can be mainstreamed in TSC more particularly in water stressed and flooded areas and similarly the new NRDWP guidelines also promotes prevention before going for costly treatment options. And here the alternative solutions will play a major role. 

In my opinion once mainstreamed solutions becomes alternative more particularly in water sector. Extensive use of ground water has its own problem and in major areas of Bihar  leads to excessive arsenic, fluoride and Iron in drinking water. The use of surface water has come down to minimal level. Therefore the use and promotion of surface water which was earlier the main source has become the alternative.

Therefore there is an urgent need to promote use of surface water sources in areas where it is available in abundance with modern disinfection technology. There are many such options that can be scale up like ecological sanitation with many variances in design that will suit to every HH, be it poor or rich, and be in urban or rural areas.

Under DFID SWASTH programme in Bihar we have initiated several such programs as a demonstration in water and sanitation that can be scaled up with state resources.

This programme is supporting ecological sanitation in households, schools and Tamil Nadu Ooranies model in water stressed area with fluoride problem.  Apart from this there are many local solutions that can be studied and with little refining can be scale up in the state.

Rahul Pathak, CSR and Disaster Management Cell, Aquaplus Ltd., Pune

The attachments contain an innovative low cost water treatment system which was installed by UNICEF and Oxfam in different camps of Supaul and Raghopur in the 2008 Kosi Flood response. The iron and other dissolved minerals do not pose a threat especially in emergencies. You can download the attachment from, PDF, 104 Kb.

Sujoy Chaudhury, GOAL India Field Office, Kolkata

I am absolutely one with Mr Kumar.  The social returns will have to outweigh scientific exploration and we will have to think out of the box to devise solutions to problems of water and sanitation plaguing our country.

M. M. Sharma, International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-tropics, Patancheru, Hyderabad

Rain water collected from roof is good. We store in an underground reservoir below our house in Secunderabad, AP, and use it for the whole year, including drinking and cooking without any problems. We made this system in 1995 and are drinking this water since 1997.

J.P.Maithani, Alaknanda Ghaati Shilpi Federation, Uttarakhand (response 1)

We are a voluntary organization working in the Central Himalayan region of Uttarakhand since 1997. Our organization, the Alaknanda Ghaati Shilpi Federation, has worked on the issue of Water and Sanitation. The traditional water harvesting structure which is known as chaal, khaal, taal, bawadi, mangara, naula or dhaara are the main source of water supply in the rural areas of Garhwal and Kumaon in Uttarakhand. The name of the structure may be different in the different part of the state keeping in the view the language, traditions, culture and heritage. But the issue of pure drinking water and sanitation is common among these. The water sources may be perennial or seasonal and affects the drudgery level among the children and women of the area related to demand and supply of potable water.  We have observed following major problems:

1.      Contamination in water bodies at the source by sheep and goats. In few cases we have noticed tapeworms and cysts in the brains of young children aged 6-12 years. After a survey it was observed that the sheep of the government sheep breeding farm also drink water near the source and their excreta contaminates the water supply channel from where the government water supply pipelines source water to supply to households.

2.      The government water supply departments (Jal Sansthan, Jal Nigam and Swajal Pariyojana) do not do adequate water purification and filtration by using chlorine and potassium permanganate.

3.      The underground water sources are getting polluted by the construction of hotels and schools in the upstream areas. Villagers have noticed that the colour and smell of water have been changed after the construction of particular structure upstream.

4.     There is no sanitation plan in the upper Himalayan towns that also lack panchayats or municipalities.

Neha Bajaj, AECOM India Pvt. Ltd., Gurgaon

I was going through Mr. Maithani's mail about sanitation plan for the Upper Himalayas . To the best of my knowledge, the Uttarakhand Pey Jal Sansdhan Vikas Evam Nirman Sadan has initiated steps for providing sewerage and non-sewerage infrastructure for Upper, Middle and Lower Himalayas. Proposals for preparation of Feasibility report, Detailed Project Report and City Sanitation Plan have been invited. So I think very soon the sanitation issue will be addressed for the Uttarakhand region.

J P Maithani, Alaknanda Ghaati Shilpi Federation, Uttarakhand (response 2)

Thanks for the information provided by the Neha Bajaj. I think this may be useful for the towns and nagar palika areas where the Uttarakhand Pey Jal Sansadhan Evam Nirman Nigam will be planning to do something for the sewerage and drinking water or sanitation. However, there are many small towns where the population increases during the yatra Season by 10 to 20 times that lack any sewerage plan or sanitation facilities. Where they will take the sewerage line or place the sewerage tanks. Even now, most of the nagar panchayats or nagar palikas are dumping this waste mostly in the outskirts of the town or near the Rivers Alaknanda, Mandakini, and Bhagirathi.

Rita Savla, Radhee Disaster and Education Foundation, Mumbai

This is a very important point of the water and sanitation problem which is seen most of part of India . The sanitation problem is worse in the village and small taluka places as compare to urban or semi-urban areas which has good water and sanitation arrangement done by the municipal corporation. Due to misuse of ground water, level going low day by day and getting contaminated by the metals making it unsafe to drink.

I see two aspect of problem here:

1.      During daily use and

2.      During floods where contamination of water happens due to overflowing of sewerage lines

If water management is done well then this problem can be solved during floods also.  Recharge of tube wells, rain water harvesting and roof water harvesting for tank water are the long term solutions. This has initial cost with low maintenance cost. Enrolling the local people by giving them ownership for such projects makes it successful for long term sustainability. 

Low cost sand base filters have been effective in reducing the bacteriological contamination, making water safe to drink, should be encouraged as a daily routine practice. An awareness programme should be conducted for the maintenance of such filters so they are effective during floods also. Use of chorine tablets and alum is effective way to reduce the contamination which can be used during floods.

Low cost cow dung burnt ash helps in purification of water during floods through which safe drinking water can be obtained in just 45 minutes.

Most people are unaware of these solutions so encouraging the villagers to build these themselves helps and the government should provide the technology. Mass media awareness of such schemes should be done and also sharing the best practice in the media will motivate people to adopt such solutions. 

Water and sewer lines should be kept at a safe distance that will reduce water contamination during floods.

Roof water harvesting with a storage tank will solve the problem of the water contamination during the flood situations. For safe water during floods, rainwater tanks can help as is being practiced by the Patkhori school of Mewat (Haryana). Above solutions will help to reduce the contamination of water.

Jos Raphael, Mazhapolima, Thrissur

Mazhapolima (Rain Bounty) is an open dug well recharge programme, initiated by Thrissur District Administration in 2008 in Kerala. Roof rain water is collected through PVC rain gutters and pipes and directed to open dug well after simple filtration methods to remove the impurities or dirt over the roof. This is a simple technique suggested by Central Ground Water Board of India usually seen from their websites and widely applied across India .

Kerala receives an average annual rainfall of 3000 MM and has the open dug well density of about 200 per sq. km. Nearly 70% of the households in Kerala have open dug wells in their homesteads. However, these wells are seen going dry during summer for the past couple of decades. Several NGOs and individuals try to work out local solutions for water security at their levels.  In the Thrissur District, when an enthusiastic District Collector (Dr. V. K. Baby) took charge in May 2008, NGOs and individuals working on the water subjects gathered under him to initiate a water movement that is called as Mazhapolima. Now nearly 7,000 Mazhapolima units have been established under the programme.

The positive benefits of this technique we saw here in Kerala are open dug wells tend to get recharged to provide fresh water including for summer months.  Open dug well water of Kerala coast are becoming saline by population-induced activities.  Here too the diversion of roof rain water to the open dug wells helps to reduce saline and iron content. The turbid, yellow, reddish water from the dug wells becomes clean after directing the roof rain water to open dug wells.   The unit cost for installing the pipes, gutters, filter with installation charges does not exceed Rs. 5000. Maintenance of the fixtures is the responsibility of the house & well owner.

A scientific assessment of the impact of the dug well recharge programme was undertaken by Centre for Water Resources Development and Management (CWRDM) Kozhikode . The report of their scientific assessment is yet to come out. However, the people who made proper use of this technique and maintain their rainwater collection fixtures, witness that their open dug wells become perennial and iron and saline content is reduced drastically. Mrs. Geetha Gopi, a MLA of Kerala, and resident of the Guruvayoor township (recently elected from Nattika State Assembly Constituency) who tried this technique at her home is all set for popularizing this roof water harvesting for open well recharging.

Probably this technique may be useful for Megh Pyne Abhiyan (MPA) and the Advanced Centre for Water Resources Development and Management (ACWADAM) to apply at Northern Bihar . Still, these techniques are site specific with soil type, rainfall pattern, topography, ground water table levels, social acceptability, habitat pattern, and much other viability. And therefore it requires site specific modifications to apply at the flood prone areas of Northern Bihar districts.

Asit Nema, Foundation for Greentech Environmental Systems, New Delhi

Recently I had an opportunity to travel to some of the remote areas in North Bihar which are affected by floods every year and also visited villages where MPA is working on promotion of ecosan toilets along with its committed grassroots partner organisations. While planning for flood affected areas, first measure is to raise the structures and accordingly MPA has constructed latrines with an elevation. For ecosan models which are judged to be an appropriate option under the given setting, the substructure is also raised about 3’ above ground and which can be shifted when need arises. The structure could be made more robust to withstand external forces; however that would come at an extra cost and which is a difficult matter under the given setting.

Another option for such emergencies (especially for areas experiencing prolonged inundation) could be above ground on-set pit latrines with platform constructed on a compacted and stabilized mound. Depending on local situation, the mound could be 3-5 feet high. Another option under severe boundary conditions (as selectively tried out in Bahraich in UP) could be a raised septic tank latrine. The entire superstructure is made about 4-5’ above ground and the septic tank is also kept partly above ground. Levels are determined depending on the local hydraulic situation. Evidently cost of such structures is high.

Many thanks to all who contributed to this query!


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