Solar-based IRP: Providing Clean Drinking Water

Solar-based IRP: Providing Clean Drinking Water

As the round of introductions was in progress at the meeting of the water users committee in Deulsulia village, one couldn’t help but notice the discoloured teeth of the men, women and children.

The beaming smiles were the telltale signs of dental fluorosis and the the state of drinking water in the village. Deulsulia village is in Kalahandi’s Mohangiri gram panchayat.

Till almost a year and a half ago, Dungripada Tola, this hamlet of 40 households had one pond and one tube well as their only source of drinking water; the water they got was high in iron. As people recall, the collected water used to turn red and the smell made it very difficult for them to drink it.

“At times earthworms came out with the water from the tubewell. Sometimes there were pieces of rusted iron (from the pipeline) in the water. The water was causing a lot of health issues. Dysentery and diarrhoea are common. Stomach pain and liver complications were common; there have been nearly 4-5 cases of stomach cancer,” recalls Bharat Bhoi.

A 2022 water test report showed high levels of iron (2.04mg/l was present as against the acceptable limit of 0.3mg/l). The hamlet was in urgent need of clean drinking water.

A solar-based iron removal plant (IRP) was set up. This 1000 litre community water filter was set up in March 2022. The now defunct hand pump is just a few metres away. The water to the IRP is drawn through a submersible pump. The water tank is cleaned once weekly using the backwash method. The filter comes with a fiver year warranty; it was set up at a cost of approximately Rs 2 lakh. The IRP was set up through Project Utthan, an Oxfam India-HDFC Bank initiative. 

The upkeep of the IRP and the water tank is done by the 10-member Water Users Committee and every household pays Rs 10 per month towards their contribution for operation and maintenance (O&M). The Bhagwat Water Committee of the Dungripada Tola have now opened a bank account; all the money will be used for repairs and further O&M. The collections started earlier this year; by March they Committee had collected Rs 1200. The fee is currently being paid by 36 households.

Though houses in the hamlet, in the last few months, got piped water supply through the government, it doesn’t have any filters. The water hasn’t been tested for iron contamination either. For the time being the families are using the IRP water for cooking and drinking; they collect water twice during the day.

The community is happy. They do not have to go very far to fetch clean drinking water and they are positive that this water is good for their health and improve eventually. There is demand from neighbouring villages to set up similar plants in their villages and hamlets as well. In fact, samples of water from the IRP was tested a few months ago; the iron level was 0.465 mg/l.

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