Shyamala, a health educator in West Godavari district, Andhra Pradesh, India, had tried for months to convince families in the region to pay a small fee for clean drinking water. “I work with women’s self help groups in 10 villages. Nothing worked anywhere– flip charts, posters, skits, and role plays. Women were not convinced about the need to use or pay for clean drinking water.”
Faced with an impasse, Shyamala then hit upon a novel idea. “We connected a microscope to a projector and asked women in the village of Jagannadhapuram to apply untreated pond water samples to the glass slides. They were shocked by the microorganisms that they could see on the screen. Some women actually wept on seeing the germs that their families were routinely being subjected to.”
The practical demonstration instantly changed behavior: the number of women using the clean water facility in this village grew from 20 to 390 members.
For years, in the heart of rural Andhra Pradesh, there were no alternatives to contaminated pond water. Then, two years ago, the Naandi Foundation, an NGO with a strong presence in the state, approached the Global Partnership on Output-Based Aid (GPOBA) with a proposal to set up purification plants with the technical assistance of Water Health International (WHI). Capitalizing on the immense respect that doctors command in rural communities, Naandi created the Dr. Water brand to give the water purification plants funded by GPOBA an identity. Today, for more than 16,000 families across 25 villages, Dr. Water is the water that keeps them free from disease resulting in a huge improvement in their quality of life.
Andhra Pradesh is the fifth most populated state in India with 80 million people. Nearly 65 percent of its population has access to water; however, 17 million people routinely experience bacteriological contamination of water. Rural households in the coastal districts are affected with frequent outbreaks of jaundice, diarrhea, and gastroenteritis. Some of the challenges in providing clean water include geographic remoteness, poor maintenance of existing systems, and a paucity of public funds.
The Naandi project shows how potable water schemes can be designed in a sustainable way, with real and direct impact for the community. The question of paying for clean and reliable water is addressed by engaging community members early on and showing them the benefits of the service. We are proud of this scheme which represents a first step in providing clean water for all, regardless of social position or standing. ||Cledan Mandri-Perrott, World Bank and GPOBA Project Task Team Leader
Under the output-based aid approach, village water purification plants are built in rural areas. In order for a village to be eligible, the local community must provide a contribution amounting to around 10% of the total cost of the treatment plant/facility. Furthermore, the village panchayats (councils) are required to provide land and a treatable water source for the plants, functioning with ultraviolet (UV) purification systems.
The Naandi Foundation manages the project and runs programs to create awareness about the need for clean water through health educators. These educators work with the community through women’s self-help groups and schools as the women in society are decision makers about the water that is used in their homes. WHI installs and maintains the treatment plants, with the water meeting the quality standards specified by the Bureau of Indian Standards.
Given the remoteness of the locations and the lack of technical support, the objective has always been to ensure sustainable delivery of services. Apart from setting up each plant, WHI hired and trained plant operators in each village. The water tariff pays for the ongoing operation and maintenance of the water plants.
Making Community Connections
In Gollivanthippa, the water purification plant has resulted in improved health and better attendance at the local school. The principal, Renuka Prasanna, said: “There has been a great improvement in attendance at school now and the children are healthier. ”
Kokila and Stutra Rani raising awareness about the need for clean water.Kokila and Stutra Rani, 6th graders said: “Earlier we would drink pump water from the street and would suffer from diarrhea and fever. Now, we drink Dr. Water and are healthy and attend school regularly.”
Both girls are part of a children’s skit team that works with the health educator in their village. The women pay attention when these children perform, for their earnest songs and dances about the need for clean water touch their hearts.
Prabhakar, a village leader said, “When I was 10 years old, I became aware that whenever our relatives from neighboring villages came to visit they always brought their own drinking water. Our water supply was so contaminated that no outsider would touch it. I began to dream of the day when I could bring clean drinking water to my village of Kowtharam.”
When the Naandi Foundation approached Prabhakar for community support, he agreed at once. “I told the community to contribute. A local company sponsored 300 water cans for the poor. I am happy that I was able to protect the lives of over 300 families.”
“The actual process of setting up a plant takes only 45 days. The real challenge lies in getting local political support. In one instance, it took nearly two years to set up a plant,” said Sreenivas Sreeramulu, project manager, Naandi Foundation.
Then there is the challenge of dealing with unrealistic expectations at the grassroots. Although the water is extremely affordable, at Rs. 2 (4 cents) for a 20 liter can, some villagers feel that the service should include free delivery to their door.
Across the state, the project has benefitted 16,100 families – 29 percent more than originally targeted when the project began in 2007. For GPOBA, it is another success story in its ongoing effort to use a results-based financing approach to help poor people in developing countries gain access to basic infrastructure and social services. In this instance, over 77,000 people in Andhra Pradesh now have access to a sustainable source of clean, affordable drinking water.