When communities lead the way

Story type
Case story
When communities lead the way

A community in a remote village in eastern India comes together to break free from the struggles of access to clean water. The intervention changes their lives in more ways than they had ever imagined.

As you travel to the interiors of Gaya district in Bihar, amidst acres of agriculture land lies a small village called Zindapur. Home to 56 families, a majority of the community members are daily wage labourers, who either work at the brick factory nearby or at the farmlands owned by affluent landowners. Their meagre income is heavily dependent on the pretext of if they manage to get work, thereby trapping them in a vicious circle of poverty.

“The wages we earn on a daily basis are not sufficient and also vary for men and women. While my husband gets an amount of money for his work, women like me are given rice instead… It becomes difficult to manage the expenses for our family,” shared twenty-year-old Mamta Devi.

Mamta Devi
Image: WaterAid/Prashanth Vishwanathan

 A community struggling with poverty, basic facilities like clean water and decent toilets were undoubtedly not available at every household nor were a priority.

However, today each household in the community has access to clean water through a mini piped water supply scheme. With a submersible boring and a water storage tank, water is made available to the community members. A person in-charge from within the community is responsible to switch the water motor on thrice a day. Long queues at the water point, arguments and fights with each other to collect water first, and the ordeal of spending hours at the water point every day are long-gone practices for Zindapur village.

In contrast, the situation was not the same until a year ago…

“I cannot even count the number of times I went to the nearby water points or even the number of buckets I filled in a day. I used to spend a minimum of 2-3 hours a day to collect water,” recalls Mamta.

In Zindapur village, women would walk for about 1km to reach the canal and collect water. Although the village has a well in close vicinity, but it belonged to a landlord of the farm. The landlord never objected, but the community members would try and use the well water as less as possible.

Mamta’s father-in-law, Babulal Paswan, 70, shared, “It was too difficult to collect water earlier, especially for us at this age. My son and daughter-in-law would collect water for me as well, but that meant spending more time at the water point. Earlier, we had to wait near the well, keep it clean so the water consumed was not too dirty, and even ensure that no one falls in the well as it is at the ground level itself.” The situation was worse when at times some of the community members were forced to skip work and the day’s income, only to be able to collect water for the household needs. Often children would be late for school or would drop out in even worse cases. 

All the daily struggles forced the community members to gather together and discuss possible solutions. WaterAid India and its partner, with support from the HSBC Water Programme soon stepped in and facilitated community level meetings and discussions. Leaders from within the community actively participated and were dedicated to work towards finding a solution to end their water woes. After numerous meetings attended by the Sarpanch, concerned authorities and government officials, the installation of water taps at each household was initiated.

Children in Anganwadi centre in Gaya, Bihar
Image: WaterAid/Prashanth Vishwanathan

Although a long wait, but in the year 2017 the taps were finally installed through a mini-piped water supply model and ready for use with clean water for the villagers at their household premises. The water is also tested by WaterAid’s partner twice a year to ensure that it is free from any form of contaminant.

“We are able to collect water within minutes. I do not have to worry about filling buckets and storing water, or leaving my two-year-old with someone at home so that I can collect water. We just open the tap, and water is available for the family,” shared Mamta excitedly.

A simple model of storing water in a tank and connecting it with a piped connection at each household in the community has shown a great impact. Women like Mamta are now able to complete their household chores on time, spend time with their children, and even work for a few hours to add to the family’s income. Meanwhile, the children are able to go to school, study and play like any other child of their age, and the men are able to go to work regularly.

Image: WaterAid/Prashanth Vishwanathan

The community members are still not at rest though! Keeping in mind the scarcity of water experienced for all these years, they have now decided to manage their water resources better as well as take ownership. They plan to clean the nearby well and make it ready for rainwater harvesting. With the onset of monsoons, the community members plan to collect the rainwater and then cover it so that the water can be used for other household or non-potable purposes such as washing and cleaning. Access to water has not only ensured the availability of water at all times, but has also made the community members sensitive towards the resources that are available to them and the resources they can conserve.