Khaira, a small village of Bihar, is all set to launch a community owned Reverse Osmosis (RO) Water Purification Plant for providing clean water to the villagers. Khaira is located in Kharagpur Block of Munger, one of the two districts in Bihar that are enlisted as both arsenic and fluoride contaminated.
In its attempt to get rid of fluoride and arsenic-rich water, Khaira Panchayat is all set to launch the water purification plant which would be collectively owned by the village. The ground water of Khaira village and its adjoining areas do not contain arsenic but has fluoride above tolerance limit.
The Bihar Technical Assistance Support Team (BTAST) has facilitated and supported commissioning of the upcoming water treatment plant. The plant is currently under trial and will soon start providing safe and treated drinking water to the rural populace. BTAST is an initiative of Bihar Government supported by DFID-UK to implement the Sector Wide Approach to Strengthen Health (SWASTH) in Bihar.
Though Khaira has local water bodies in the form of lakes, inhabitants of the village are mostly dependant on hand pumps to meet their daily household needs.
With the village having a limited number of fluoride-
safe drinking water sources, villagers are forced to either depend on fluoride contaminated sources or to travel long distances to fetch clean drinking water that is free from fluoride contamination.
The BTAST supported Khaira water treatment plant would be managed by a ‘committee’ comprising of ten members chosen from the users and cater to the demand of about 706 families in the village. The committee will be headed by the village head ‘Mukhiya’ and will charge a nominal fee from the beneficiaries and maintain the accounts for its sustainability.
According to a study conducted by B-TAST, Patna, out of a total of 272 hand pumps, 213 revealed fluoride content more than the permissible limit. The study titled ‘Integrated Approach to Fluoride Management in Khaira Village’ was conducted between October 2012 and April 2013.
In addition, a dental survey was also conducted on 143 children in the age group of 8 – 16 years of 3 schools in the village. The survey revealed that out of a total of 143 children, over 28 (20%) were affected by mild fluorosis, 28 (20%) by moderate fluorosis and 21 (15%) by severe fluorosis. Apart from these figures, 21 (15%) of those surveyed were categorised as suspected cases, who in later years may develop clear symptoms of dental fluorosis.
The importance of Khaira water treatment plant is due to the fact that this, if successful, has the potential of being replicated in other needy areas of Bihar. This piloting may be considered as a ‘yard stick’ towards long term mitigation measures for fluoride contaminated ground water in the state.
Prabhakar Sinha, Director, WATSAN, BTAST, believes that the Khaira project is a demonstration of the first community owned water treatment plant in the state with the potential of having the multiplier effect in the region. “The water from this plant will be sold to the community at the nominal rates decided by the local panchayat,” he informed.
Initially, for a period of five months, BTAST would support for the operation and maintenance of the plant and distribution of treated water to user families.
Beyond this period, BTAST will support the Annual Maintenance Contract (AMC) of the plant for one year. Thereafter, the Gram Panchayat of Khaira village will manage the plant and the entire cost for running the plant will be earned through selling treated water leading to the sustainability of the project.