The looming crisis of water shortage in India because of polluted rives and obscure storage facility has aggravated the already grim situation. Even though close to 76 million people in India don’t have access to a safe water source, there is some respite as the NGO Safe Water Network is dealing with the issue.
This water warrior has been working with rural communities of India and Ghana since 2009 to provide clean and safe drinking water through iJal Water Stations, popularly known as Water ATMs. Two of these have already been set up in Greater Noida. The adoption of more such ATMs could be a permanent solution to a perennial problem.
Each water ATM serves 3,000 community members. “These stations are led by women who come from water-stressed communities and have been burdened with the responsibilities related to water collection, treatment, use for domestic chores, and caring for family members ill from waterborne diseases. Eight per cent of water is collected by the women in households that do not have access to drinking water at their premises, and globally, women spend over 200 million hours collecting water every day,” says Poonam Sevak, vice president, programmes and partnerships, Safe Water Network. In the rural areas of Greater Noida, the community has vastly benefitted with the weeding out of nitrates and sulphates that used to cause water-borne diseases.
“The organisation works with communities to commission locally owned water purification systems and in turn transforming women from water carriers to water entrepreneurs thus addressing two pertinent issues: safe water and women’s financial independence,” says Sevak.
After undergoing special training and capacity building programmes, the women set up these water ATMs notwithstanding digital impetuses. Training on different aspects of day-to-day operations and management are offered at the time of inception and a refresher course is conducted twice a year, Sevak tells us.
With a purification system capacity close 1,000 litres per hour, it ensures enough water supply for the entire community. “Twenty litres of treated water costs a small sum of Rs 5 for the walk-in customers in the rural areas, which generally serves the family for a day or two depending upon the family size or the season,” she says. The model has great potential for the slums in Delhi where safe drinking water is only a dream.