RAISING THE BAR

Santosh Kumar Srivastava & Amit Kumar Singh (Sahbhagi Shikshan Kendra)

Raised hand pumps in flood-prone districts of Uttar Pradesh ensure clean drinking water supply even during floods


In Uttar Pradesh, about 4,50,000 people in 209 villages along the Ghaghara River in Bahraich district are affected by annual flooding. Ironically, the biggest problem people faced during floods is the lack of that one thing which has otherwise a bountiful presence near them - Water.

Hand pumps in the affected areas would get submerged severing the only source of clean drinking water for the affected population. During a routine field survey, interaction with locals threw at us a simple but transformational idea - "Why can't we raise our hand pumps just as the flood water rises high?" This set us thinking. Villagers had offered a solution; it just needed to be translated into reality.

The locations were chosen with consensus - near community-owned structures such as temples, primary schools, etc. - so as to ensure accessibility to the poorest and socially vulnerable. Hand pump Nigrani Samitis (Care-taking committees) comprising five-six locals were formed in each hamlet with at least one woman representative in each samiti. These committees are in-charge of maintenance as well as other issues related to the hand pumps in their villages. This is an excellent example of people’s initiative and community participation.

"We knew that the water we were drinking during floods was contaminated but had no other option. Our children used to fall sick. Now, we use the raised hand pumps during the floods. Our children no longer have to drink dirty water", says Dharamraj from Matrepur village. He further adds, " Our community is benefitting from these hand pumps. Therefore, it is our duty to maintain these. We take turns to ensure that the hand pump is working fine."

The first raised hand pump was installed in 2008 in Bahraich. The scheme was later expanded to Barabanki district as well. During floods, about 70 per cent of the population in each village uses these hand pumps during floods.

“Jabse unchkae nal laag gawa hain, hum log uhi ka pani piye lagen hai, tabse bahut kam beemar pari hai. Aam samay, kamhai log pani piyat hain, baki badhia maa sabhayi pani unchkae nal se piyat hain,” says Purwa village's Ramsagar, who is happy now that the instances of waterborne diseases has come down in his village. (Since the day the raised hand pump has been installed, we have been using it for drinking water. People don't fall ill regularly now. In normal times, people use the other pumps too but during the floods, everybody drinks water from the raised hand pumps).

The process

Once the location is finalised, boring for the pump is done and water samples collected done to determine the EC, pH, turbidity and colour of water, etc. The samples are then sent to different laboratories to ensure that the water is potable and not at all hazardous to health. Once the quality of water is established, hand pumps are installed and handed over to the nigrani samitis.

In case the results are negative, the boring is discarded, a note mentioning the same put up nearby and the community informed about the same. Afterwards, the process is repeated at another location until the solution is found.

Design of the hand pumps

Based on the highest water level of the recent flooding events recorded in the area, the height of the platform for installing the hand pump is determined. A strong foundation for the platform is built using cement, sand, bricks and rocks so that the regular water flow does not damage the structure in the long run as in case of traditional mud platforms. The 8 inches by 4 inches platform is supported by four walls of 9 inches each, which are perforated to allow air to enter and thus resist sliding. The space within the walls is filled with soil, rock dust and sand before plastering the entire structure. A rock or a marble piece is kept beneath the outlet to serve the dual purpose of a platform for the vessels and a safeguard for the plaster beneath. A railing and a staircase, at least 2.5 feet wide, are erected on and adjoining the structure respectively. These not only ease movement for those fetching water but also prevent children from falling down, especially during flood time.

Economical hand pumps which require minimum maintenance so that they can easily be repaired by the community in case of any damage or any other problem were chosen. Setting up each of these hand pumps cost anything between Rs. 15,000-20,000. 

Benefits of raised hand pumps:

ü Access to clean drinking water during floods
ü Decline in the cases of water-borne diseases
ü Little investment needed; great cost to benefit ratio
ü Safe for evacuation during floods

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