When an RO filter plant brings in a spring of hope
There was a time when access to water in Gadhar village of Karnataka’s Raichur district was usually subject to availability of male members in the household. Gangamma, 55, said that it was because they had to buy water cans from private vendors who were at a distance from their homes. “This is why we would have to get the water cans on bikes. So during the day when the men were not around and water ran out, we women would struggle to get work done,” she said. An RO filter plant installed in their village with the help of the Self Help Group’s financial contribution—and WaterAid India’s assistance—has now changed the story.
Easy access to clean drinking water without bearing heavy expenditure was a big challenge for the community members of Gadhar village until recently. “Apart from the distance, buying water cans from private vendors was also expensive. Each water can cost INR 10 and a household would require at least 20 such pots, which means an expenditure of INR 200 a day,” Gangamma said. To add to this, people would also spend on the fuel on their bikes to access these water cans.
Despite all the efforts and money spent, the water from the private vendors, Gangamma said, would “smell of bleach”.
This is why when WaterAid India along with Water.Org intervened with the proposal of helping set up an RO filter plant in the village, the women, more than anyone else, were jubilant. “There are 11 members in my Self Help Group and when we were told by the organisation (WaterAid India) about the implications of drinking unsafe, contaminated water, we wanted to do what we could to ensure safe water for ourselves, our families and children,” she said. As awareness spread and inspiration grew to take action, the Self Help Group members gathered INR 10,000 towards the installation of the RO plant. Another INR 35,000 was taken as a loan and the Panchayat contributed an additional INR 50,000.
“There were two reasons why we decided to invest in the RO plant: one was because it would give us access to safe drinking water, and second because it would be a pay-to-use service through which we could earn some money,” Gangamma explained. A sum of INR 5 is charged for filling a 20-liter pot from the RO plant; at least 50 pots are filled each day—“more when there is a special occasion in the family or during festivals when the requirement increases”. The RO water, Gangamma said, “tastes better”, without the smell of bleach which, they suspect, is what would make them fall ill at times. “Access to water has also become so much easier. Now anyone can walk and fill a pot of water from the plant. Children can do it, women can do it. We don’t have to depend on the men,” she added.
In 15 days since its installation, the Self Help Group which takes care of operating the RO filter plant, has started earning INR 250 per day. They have assigned two people to come in two shifts—mornings and evenings—to collect money for the water. “I am in charge of the money collected and maintain a log book to see how much money has been earned each day,” Gangamma said, “We now want to start a service of providing water cans to people to earn an additional income.” Once they have saved enough, the Self Help Group plans to repay the loan taken for the RO plant.
“I am happy to be able to operate this RO plant with the others. It’s ensuring health and ease to everyone and we are earning too. Earlier I used to run a small shop, but I like this work much better,” she said.