**Bhubaneswar: ** Gone are the days when the villagers of Ogalpur under Kanas block of Puri district were devoid of potable water. But, now they have easy access to safe and sufficient water for drinking and ablutions.
The groundwater of the village, that is less than 15 km away from Chilika Lake (a brackish water lagoon), is saline and contains iron. Makhara, a tributary of Daya river flowing near Ogalpur, is polluted. Still, the villagers (especially women) were dependent on these two sources to meet the needs of their families, be it drinking, cooking or household purposes.
Not only Ogalpur, but also Suhagpur village. Women and young girls of this coastal village suffered from the tedious job of drawing water from the village pond for daily needs. Villagers use the pond for washing utensils and clothes, and also for bathing. Open defecation near the pond adds to the biological contamination, especially during rains.
During floods, the river water turns muddy and gets contaminated. With 150 km of coastline, Puri district is prone to cyclones, floods and water logging resulting in epidemics. Kanas block is more prone to floods as it is near the Chilika coast and is surrounded by six tributaries. Lack of access to safe drinking water leaves the entire population vulnerable to water-borne diseases like cholera, typhoid, jaundice, dysentery, and diarrhoea.
Cyclone Phailin in October 2013 had severely affected almost all the villages in Kanas block. Even though the villagers were shifted to a nearby cyclone shelter for nearly a month, water tankers could not reach the remote villages.
Looking at the vulnerable conditions in getting safe drinking water during and after disasters, SOLAR, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) with support from ‘Oxfam India’ installed iron removal plants (IRPs) for the existing tube wells in Ogalpur.
The IRP has a capacity of 2,000 liters and is filled four times during the day to cater to the population of Ogalpur. The motor pump lifts the water into the top chamber of the IRP and the filtered water is collected in lower chambers.
After the cyclone, SOLAR and Oxfam India set up a flood-proof pond sand filtration(PSF) unit in Suhagpur to provide the villagers with safe drinking water. The tank is divided into six chambers containing stone chips, sand, and charcoal. Villagers draw the filtered water from the last chamber.
With setting up of IRPs and the PSFs, the village women are now relieved from the strenuous labour of purifying the water to make it fit for drinking. Now they collect water from the taps in the morning and evening and use it for drinking.
As the easy availability of clean water has reduced the drudgery of the village women, they have taken up the task of maintaining the units. They have formed a water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) committee. Every Sunday they clean the tanks and the filters.
The water is currently being used for drinking purpose only. The women seek more such units to meet cooking requirements, as they still rely on water from the ponds and rivers. Women from neighboring villages too come for drawing water from these units.