Written By: Ms. Essar Batool, Project Coordinator, Kashmir
Kashmir: The recent floods that left Kashmir shattered in terms of loss of lives, livelihood, infrastructure and economy, also hampered the most basic amenities required for maintaining a standard of living. One of the worst affected facilities was the water supply to villages including dug wells, hand pumps and piped water supply. For most of the villages, safe, drinking water has never been a priority and fairly speaking has been a distant dream given the inaccessibility to water facilities.
The trend in villages is women and girls travelling considerable distance in disagreeable weather to get water from Jhelum and rivulets that is used mainly for everything from drinking to washing and cooking. This water is almost never boiled for drinking purpose, leading to water borne diseases among the population and mostly among the children in these villages.
Most of the water sources such as wells, ponds and hand pumps have been either damaged or are filled with flood water that is unfit for even washing, and feeding to cattle not to talk of drinking or using for cooking. The limited piped water supply for two hours a day and three days a week is not enough to suffice the needs of the people and reduced to helplessness, the people are forced to use the flood water for various domestic uses. The usage of water prior to floods was also a matter of concern as given the socioeconomic conditions of the villagers it was not affordable for them to get the fuel required to boil the water. With such scarce resources, safe drinking water does not remain a concern of priority but takes a backseat even as people continue to suffer silently and knowingly.
Based on a rapid needs assessment done immediately after the floods it was found that most of the villages in Baramulla and Bandipora were devoid of any water source for drinking water as flood waters continued to fill the villages for over a month after floods. Even today in certain villages fields are filled with flood water with no signs of being drained out.
In such a scenario, IGSSS with technical support from Islamic Relief has identified 17 villages that were in immediate need of safe drinking water. Water filtration plant was installed in communities at frequented community points that are accessible to the community members. 20 water filters have been installed in 15 villages in Baramulla and Bandipora. After the installation of the plant, the WASH (Water Sanitation and Hygiene) team trained a responsible member from the community on handling the filtration plant so as to ensure its smooth operation and also handed over the spare parts to the person for changing whenever required.
After the installation continuous visits to monitor the water plants were carried out by the IGSSS team and problems in plants if any were reported to the technical team who responded by rectifying the errors in operation of the plant. The water plants at some points are exclusively used by the community and at some points is shared by both schools and communities thereby reaching out to a larger no of households. The smaller schools were targeted with gravity water buckets, so as to not leave the children without drinking water at schools either.
Mere provision of drinking water is not sufficient until the community is also aware of proper hygiene and sanitation measures to be undertaken. In order to cater to this component, wall paintings were done near water installations so as to cater to the largely illiterate members of the community and the children. The main focus of the WASH intervention was to ensure that clean and safe drinking reaches the community.
Even though there is a slim chance that any visible impact on the health of beneficiaries will be evident within such a short span of time, there have been positive indicators in the habits of community members. The community members have been seen to use the water plant to carry drinking water back to their homes for further use. Apart from this, people passing by the water points have access to safe drinking water.The installations have obviously obliterated the need to boil the water for drinking as drinking water in its purest form is available within the community.The installations have mostly helped the women and the girls of the community who used to walk kilometers in order to get water for drinking; this wouldn’t go to say that this factor has completely been wiped out as people still need water for washing and bathing. However, a visible change in community habits regarding drinking water is visible near the water points. In the larger context it is expected that the water points will have contributed towards reducing the incidences of water borne diseases in areas that the plant is catering to.