In the last two decades, RDI through its Water and Sanitation team has provided water accessibility to 200 villages through 49 water schemes, 450 rainwater harvesting tanks and 65 gravity schemes. Sanitation schemes have also been implemented at households, schools and Aanganwadi centers. Stef Smits, Senior Program Officer at IRC Netherlands recently visited Water and Sanitation villages being supported by HIHT. He published an article on his website, in which he interviewed a former Gram Pradhana, Ms. Sangeeta.
A few excerpts from the interview: When she (Sangeeta) became Pradhan in 2008, the water situation in Gawana was dire. There was a government-built water system, but it had only one stand post. Moreover, the quality of the construction was poor, leading to lots of leakages. Often not more than a trickle of water came out of the single stand post. When water wouldn’t come, they had to walk three kilometers to a mountain source to fetch water. Luckily, during her work in a neighboring village, she came across the work of Himmothan, an initiative of the Sir Ratan Tata Trust. Under this initiative, water supply systems are developed in the rural villages in the Himalayans, together with local partner NGOs, such as the Himalayan Institute Hospital Trust (HIHT) and communities themselves. Sangeeta worked on that initiative as a community mobilizer. Once she had become a Pradhan, she convinced the people in her Gram Panchayat to also apply for a water supply scheme from Himmothan. The application was not only a request for support, but also a commitment from the community to improve the situation. Himmothan requests a 10% upfront contribution to the water system from the community, amounting to about $50 US per family. Moreover, 100% household sanitation coverage is required before work on water supply can start.
A final point of commitment was around sustainability. A water committee would need to be formed and villagers would be expected to cover maintenance costs and contribute labour to some of the hard maintenance work, like washing the filters. Sangeeta worked hard to form such a committee and organize the community around the maintenance.
Sangeeta is now very satisfied with the results. “I would recommend any Pradhan to apply for water supplies to Himmothan; go for quality and for things that last.”