March 2012

Refreshing lives with water

Nandi Devi and other women in the tiny hamlet of Humkarki in Uttarakhand now have time to take better care of their children due to Himmothan Pariyojana’s drinking water and sanitation interventions

Two of the key necessities for life -- potable water and safe sanitation —  were all but absent from the tiny hamlet of Humkarki, a scattered village in the Berinag block of Pithoragarh district, Uttarakhand till about two years back, due to which intestinal and waterborne diseases were rampant, especially among children.

Availability of clean drinking water at the doorstep transforms lives of villagers from Humkarki
“Thank God, my children are much healthier now," Nandi Devi rejoices. “Now, we don’t have to trek several kilometers daily to fetch water for drinking and household use, and, as a result, spend quality time with our children and take better care of their personal hygiene and studies.”

The general mood in Humkarki is buoyant and upbeat ever since it was selected by the Himalayan Gram Vikas Samiti (HGVS), Gangolihat, in 2010, as one of the 50 villages it embraced under Phase 3 of the Himmothan Pariyojana - the Trusts’ rural Himalayan initiative - towards improving health through drinking water and sanitation interventions. HGVS first initiated participatory planning over a year in Humkarki, for the formation and training of a representative management society that would, in turn, be responsible for rolling out and managing the scheme. Every family in the village participated with great joy and gusto in the project-related work, installing a gravity-based water supply scheme, 12 roof rain harvesting tanks and 47 sanitation units over the next year.

The results and feedback indicate that the scheme has proved to be a boon for the village’s 397 residents:  “We were living in a deplorable state -- My children and I were afraid of going out in the dark for defecating, but now we have our own toilet and we can use it anytime,” Parvati Devi, proudly shares, with satisfaction written all over her face. The sanitation intervention carried out has led to 100 per cent latrine coverage (earlier, only 8 per cent), and waterborne diseases such as diarrhea, with 14 cases reported just prior to the programme’s implementation, have been eliminated.

A 100 per cent immunization has been achieved, and the health of both mother and child has improved greatly, reducing medical expenses significantly.

A supply main now fetches water from the source, filters it through a slow sand filter and stores and disinfects the filtered water in a clear water reservoir before releasing it to individual households. Water availability has increased from 12 litres per capita per day (lpcd) to 60 lpcd, freeing 3-4 hours daily of the villagers’ personal time, and their minds. Resident Shri Kailash Chand Joshi, for one, says: “Now, because I am having plenty of water to take care of my cattle, I have purchased two new buffaloes. I will sell milk which will supplement my income and gradually improve my standard of living.