September 10, 2009, was a day that all villagers (263 of them) of Kheda Talla, a small, but scattered village located within Jaunpur block of Tehri Garhwal district in Uttarakhand, had waited for all their lives — for the availability of clean drinking water at their doorstep. Amidst applause, overcast skies and accompanied by a persistent drizzle, the ribbon was cut at a simple ceremony to inaugurate the water supply scheme that would ensure clean drinking water for all 43 households — at their doorsteps.
“Ever since I can remember, the villagers, particularly women, are forced to trek 4-5 hours daily across several kilometers every day to fetch water for drinking and household use,” informs Maya Devi, an octogenarian, flashing a toothless grin. “My daughter is always late for her classes; she helps me fetch water. At times, she suffers from stomach cramps and diarrhea,” says Kamini, yet another villager, who has turned up in her best attire.
In November 2006, Kheda Talla was selected by the Himalayan Institute Hospital Trust, Dehradun, as one of the 48 villages under Phase 2 of Himmothan Pariyojana, for enhancing health through drinking water and sanitation interventions. Notably, the Trusts are partnering with Conrad N Hilton Foundation for interventions in 10 villages under this project.
At the outset, Kheda Talla underwent a one-year participatory planning phase for formation and training of the representative management society , which is responsible for planning, implementing and managing the scheme. The planning phase confirmed the demand of the community of Kheda Talla and its willingness to contribute towards implementation, besides bearing the entire expense of operation and maintenance of the assets that would be created through the project.
The implementation phase that followed focused on setting up two gravity-based water supply schemes and individual items that included 36 latrines, 41 soak pits, 41 vermi compost pits and 43 garbage pits. A main supply pipe fetches water from the source, located 7.5km away amidst dense forests and stores it within a clear water reservoir, post which the water is filtered through a slow sand filter and then supplied to individuals through distribution supply lines that measure almost 6km in length.
Nine months later, the results indicate that the scheme is a boon for villagers. Besides saving up to 80% of their time spent earlier collecting water, the project has ensured access to disinfected, clear water within a stone’s throw from their residences. Water availability has increased from 8.69 litres per capita per day (LPCD) to 275 LPCD for Kheda tok and 119 LPCD for Sirwa tok, the two hamlets that constitute Kheda Talla. The sanitation interventions carried out have led to 100% latrine coverage (earlier 25%).
The village wears a clean look, thanks to raised awareness and construction of latrines, garbage pits, soak pits and vermi compost pits. Water-borne diseases, such as diarrhea, have reduced drastically. Women, as well as men, acknowledge the importance of safe pregnancy and childbirth. They are willing to seek medical intervention, thereby reducing mother and child mortality rate during childbirth significantly. Hundred percent immunisation has been achieved and the health of both, mother and child, has improved, thereby reducing medical expenses significantly.