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Village pumps out clean water using solar power

Sep 22, 2009

A solar water pumping system has drastically changed lives of people in eastern Indian state of Jharkhand. The eco-friendly model has not only helped villagers grow vegetables and augment income but also revived the community way of life.

Hazaribagh, Jharkhand: The four villages of Binkarva, Chichikala, Kanabandh and Chichikhurd, in Chichikala panchayat, Churchu block, Solar-water-pump.jpgHazaribagh district, Jharkhand, are models for the rest of country. They showcase the collective efforts of villagers to do something about the lack of clean drinking water, following the inaction of the state government.

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Today, every home enjoys clean and potable water even as flourishing kitchen gardens add to the villagers’ income. The health and hygiene of the people of these four villages has also improved dramatically.

The secret of their success lies in the installation of a solar water pumping system in each of the four villages.

How exactly does the system work?

The solar water pumping system is a standalone system that operates on power generated by the sun, using a solar photovoltaic setup that includes a 1,800 W solar photovoltaic panel and a 2.5 HP centrifugal submersible pump with an inverter. Solar photovoltaic systems convert solar radiation into electricity; each system has 48 plates. This is used to operate a DC surface centrifugal mono-block pumpset that draws water out of boreholes. The solar panels must be installed in a shadow-free area.

A foot-wide hole is dug to a depth of 300 feet and the submersible pump is installed. Once the photovoltaic cells of the solar plates are charged, the system is switched on. Water is sucked up from the water table by the submersible pump. It is then collected in large tanks that are mounted at a slightly higher level than the rest of the village.

“The capacity of the tank is based on the population and requirements of the village,” says Sheela Hebrom from Kanabandh village. The minimum capacity of a village tank is 2,000 litres.

Each tank is fitted to underground pipes, connected to taps. These taps are not placed in individual homes but at a common point between eight to 10 houses where villagers assemble to fill up their pots and pitchers.

The system costs Rs 550,000 to install. It was funded by Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited, New Delhi, with technical assistance from the Tata Energy Research Institute (TERI). The system was installed by Jan Seva Parishad, with the help of local villagers who contributed their labour to the effort. The system can supply 40,000-50,000 litres of clean water every day.

Community service

Before the system was installed, villagers were compelled to draw water from wells or nullahs. Women had to go on arduous treks with buckets and pitchers to collect water. Water that was, anyway, unfit for drinking. Bathing and washing clothes were a luxury! Murky water was used to clean household utensils.

Needless to say, living in such unhygienic conditions had become a way of life for the villagers. They could not even dream of growing their own vegetables, which they bought from the local market.

“We were the first in both the state of Bihar and Jharkhand to install the system in Chichikala panchayat way back in 1999-2000. And we continue to be pioneers,” says Sanjhul Tudu, manjhiharam (traditional village head) of Binkarva.

The best part of the system is that it involves community service, thereby reviving the essence of the tribal way of life. “Together we have fought and overcome not only the water crisis in our villages but also various waterborne diseases including diarrhoea. This has reduced the death rate in our villages,” says Laldhar Mahato, head of Chichikala village.

The four villages together have a total population of 1,248, with 374 homes. These include 32 Muslim households, 60 belonging to the scheduled castes, and 69 belonging to the scheduled tribes. Fifty-three households are from the backward classes.

Most of the villagers worked as daily wage earners in the absence of any other source of livelihood. After the “wonder machine” was installed, however, vegetable cultivation picked up in the villages. Today, not only does it meet the villagers’ own requirements, it also contributes substantially to augmenting the family income.

“We are making the best use of water that otherwise drains away - we use it to water the vegetables”

A committee has been set up in each village to handle the system’s functioning and maintenance. It also assigns night duty to members to safeguard against theft. The women play a major role in the system’s upkeep.

“The self-help group tap committee of the village is headed by us -it is our responsibility to collect and manage contributions from each household for the repair of taps, pipes, etc,” says Shanti Tudu from Binkarva. ontributions are based on the quantum of cultivated land, at rupees two per kattha.

And so the once-barren katthas have been converted to vegetable plots growing potatoes, beans, cauliflower, gourd, onions, garlic, spinach, tomatoes, carrots, radish… Many of the plots have come up in areas surrounding the main tank that supplies water to the village, or around the taps from where villagers collect their water.

“We are making the best use of water that otherwise drains away - we use it to water the vegetables,” explains Bagun Soren from Chichikhurd village.

Not only do the villagers enjoy eating freshly-picked vegetables from their plots, they often carry baskets of them to sell at the local market or in Charhi bazaar. “We are now able to cultivate about 4-6 hectares of land in the village during the rabi season (August to September), and sometimes we can even continue it in summer, though the area under cultivation drops to about 0.50-2.50 hectares,” says Soren.

Lifestyle change

Needless to say, with better incomes, the number of children going to school has significantly risen. Earlier, children were forced to help their parents run the household and keep the home fires burning. With more children, including girls, being educated, the level of awareness amongst the villagers has also increased.

This is best reflected in the rise in marriageable age for both girls and boys. In the past few years, there have been very few cases of girls getting married before the age of 18. “We want them to study and understand the ways of the world better,” says Chichikala village head Laldhari Mahato.

Water availability has also changed the villagers’ lifestyle. There was a time, especially during summers, when bathing was limited to once in a week or 10 days. Clothes remained grubby as they could not be washed regularly. “We looked so shabby and unkempt, but unfortunately we had no choice. Even the wells and ponds would dry up,” recalls Shanti Tudu. Today, the villagers choose not to remember those days. “We cannot imagine doing without our daily bath. It is an essential part of our daily routine,” Shanti adds.

Now that they have attained self-sufficiency, they will have to learn to conserve this precious natural resource through water harvesting

Meanwhile, DC of Hazaribagh, Binay Kumar Choubey, is all praise for the enterprising villagers. “They have undoubtedly set a trend for others to emulate. The government is doing its best to solve the water crisis in the state, but it has its own limitations,” he admits. These villagers have proved that self-help is certainly the best help.

What’s more, the system is extremely eco-friendly. Its maintenance does not entail recurring expenses; there are no fuel costs involved. All that is needed is abundantly available free sunlight. This makes the system pollution-free too, unlike generator sets that spew out thick black diesel smoke and are noisy. It is also extremely easy to operate and maintain.

The only hitch would be that the villagers will have to think about the consequences of drawing out excess groundwater. Now that they have attained self-sufficiency, they will have to learn to conserve this precious natural resource through water harvesting (particularly in the rainy months), check-dams and ponds so that the groundwater is replenished and will still be available to them even during the harsh summer months.

The author is a Jharkhand based journalist.

Source : Infochange
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