Handcrafting a Water Filter

Handcrafting a Water Filter

“I remember reading about how to make a water filter at home when I was in class seven,” said Rowsonara Begum, a 53 year old resident of Bamunpara village in the Bilasipara block of Dhubri, Assam. An active member of Asha SHG and the Secretary of Sahayogi Village Organisation for the past three years, Rowsonara Begum is a pioneer of hope and change in her community.

Besides working on a myriad of social issues ranging from prohibiting child marriage and domestic violence in the village to campaigning against the rampant use of drugs and alcohol by youth and men in her community, she has amplified healthy sanitation practices and consistently advocated for the availability of clean water in the village.

“Our village is highly susceptible to floods. Every year, our area gets flooded not only destroying property and farms but also leaving behind our water sources contaminated and unfit for consumption,” she tells us.  Rowsonara was deeply troubled with the heavy iron content in the water as it was neither fit for drinking nor could it be used in other household chores.

In an attempt to find a solution to this problem, she resorted to her school science textbook where she had learned how to make a water filter at home. Initially, she made a multi-layer mud filter with coal, sand and rocks through which contaminated water would trickle down to a chamber that would hold clean water. She kept this water in a separate bowl and compared it with the unfiltered water to understand the difference between the two.

“The filtered water was drastically different from the unfiltered water. I kept both kinds of water in two bowls overnight. The next morning, the unfiltered water left reddish marks on the vessel while the clear, filter water did not leave any such trace,” she explains the difference. This mud filter, although effective, did not last for a very long time and fell apart during a storm. Soon after, she built a cement filter following the same process which has been in use for the past couple of years.

Oxfam India, through their project, Transboundary Rivers of South Asia (TROSA), works on critical water quality issues in marginalised river-basin communities and seeks to learn from the knowledge and experiences of strong and inspiring community members like Rowsonara Begum. A few years ago, a series of TROSA-led awareness workshops and meetings were conducted in Bilasipara where Rowsonara Begum shared her experience of building the water filter with other members from in and around the area. Following this, quite a few people in the area also replicated the filter in their respective households and now have access to water that is better fit for consumption.

Rowsonara Begum is a champion of positive change and leadership in the community who leads by example and wishes to bring about deep transformative change on the ground. 

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Transboundary Rivers of South Asia (TROSA)

A programme to understand and address challenges related to transboundary rivers and communities in these river basins.

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