Self-supporting community- based mitigation program that provides arsenic safe water using modified dugwells along with public education on water related health effects.
The primary objectives of Project Well are to provide safe water through modern, modified design dugwells, as well as establish and encourage community-based groups, CBGs, to manage these arsenic-free water sources, so that they are sustainable. Project Well also regularly educates the community on arsenic and other health issues.
Millions of people are exposed to arsenic in drinking water in West Bengal and other states in India, and in the neighboring countries, especially Bangladesh. Arsenic is a tasteless metalloid that occurs naturally, in a dissolved state, in some groundwater aquifers in this region. Because it is odorless and tasteless, the water can be heavily contaminated and yet taste fine, as does the crystal clear water from tubewells in West Bengal.
Ingestion of arsenic causes cancers of the lung, bladder, kidney, liver and skin, as well as cardiovascular, respiratory, reproductive, neurological, and dermal effects. Children and those exposed to arsenic in the womb can later grow up to also experience morbid health conditions and cancers caused by exposure.
It has been estimated that in 9 out of 18 districts of West Bengal, more than six million are drinking contaminated water. Project Well developed a self-supporting community-based mitigation program in 2001 to provide arsenic-safe drinking water. There are 22 blocks in the district of North 24 Parganas. PW has been operating in parts of the blocks—namely, Gaighata, Swarupnagar, Deganga and Habra 1. In 2007, dugwells were introduced to the Gaighata block, where deaths due to arsenic poisoning have been reported over the past decade.
Project Well has constructed 112 dugwells and monitors the project, through monthly surveillance, to ensure efficient use of the dug wells. Special attention is given to the geology in the arsenic contaminated area where construction of deep dugwells is manually difficult. Dugwells are sited at least 100 feet away from latrines. The dugwell design is improved every year based on consumer reports.
As we know from the surveillance program and many dugwells get dry in summer that let us to rethink the design. In 2008, slight alterations were made to the design of the dugwell to allow for construction of deeper dugwells. One deep dug-cum-bore well was constructed. It was a great success as during the driest month of the year, May, there was an ample amount of clean water that was used by 75 people. The new users of these 20 dugwells were trained to maintain the dugwells. No reports of diarrheal disease were received from the consumers; on the contrary, there were reports on improvement of health and the demand for dugwells in some areas increased.
Registers of the consumers of Gaighata phase 2 (2008) project are now available. Out of 20 dugwells three dugwells are not used at all. From 17 dugwells the total number of consumers is 497 and the number of families is 129 and the detail of three dugwells (PW#76, 77 and 92) are not available yet. The detail of the remaining 14 community based groups is: Male: 240, Female: 210, Students: 106 and children < 5 years : 28.
In 2009 twenty more dugwells have been constructed. Five dugwells are shallow and 15 are deep dugwells with the new design. The excavation was completed before the onset of the monsoon in mid June (video will be uploaded shortly) and one dugwell is being used readily which has arsenic level below 10 ppb. The attachment of the hand pump and housing of the 19 dugwells are in progress (the pictures will be uploaded shortly).
Arsenic and bacterial analysis of the new dugwells of 2008 were also conducted (Project Village Report January 2009 is available). We recently wrote and submitted an academic paper entitled “Modifications to improve water quality and increase acceptance of modern dugwells in response to the arsenic crisis in South Asia.” In this paper, we documented our continuing efforts to improve the dugwell water quality such that user acceptance will meet its potential. After receiving feedback from villagers who complained about the chlorine smell of the water from some dugwells, we reduced chlorination doses but increased frequency from once a month to once a week, and also distributed earthen body (‘mawtka’) filters for use with dugwell water. We tested 12 dugwells after the new chlorination regime had been implemented, and found no fecal coliform in any dugwells, and no total coliform in nine of the dugwells, and only low levels of total coliform in three dugwells.
Previously, in 2003, 2006 and 2007, three scientific articles were published in international journals. The article from 2007 is entitled "Arsenic Concentrations and Bacterial Contamination in a Pilot Shallow Dugwell Program in West Bengal, India" from Journal of Environmental Science and Health Part A Toxic /Hazardous Substances & Environmental Engineering (January 2007, Vol.42, No.1) by Meera Hira-Smith, Yan Yuan, Xavier Savarimuthu, Jane Liaw, Alpana Hira, Cynthia Green, Timir Hore, Protap Chakraborty, Ondine von Ehrenstein, Allan H Smith.
LocationChakdaha Block in Nadia district, West Bengal, India
Primary Focus: Drinking Water - Community
Secondary Focus: Hygiene Education
People Getting Safe Drinking Water: 280
The demographic data will be entered after registers are created sometimes by November 2010. In 2009 twenty new dugwells have been constructed of which the masonry job is still in progress of a few. The demographic data of 2008 is given below. Out of 20 dugwells three are not used at all. From 17 dugwells the total number of consumers is 497 and number of families is 129 and the detail of three more dugwells (76, 77 and 92) are not available yet. The detail of the remaining 14 community based groups (CBGs) is:
children <5: 28
School Children Getting Water: 0
People Getting Sanitation: 0
People Getting Other Benefits: 289
During December 2008 to February 2009 there were 36 health meetings covering 70 community based groups. There were in total 628 attendees at these health meetings. Besides these health meetings there were village meetings held at the new sites for 2009. All the villagers are given knowledge on effects of drinking arsenic contaminated water and the benefits of drinking arsenic safe water and the dugwell water that is treated with chlorine as done in the metropolitan water supply. They are also given knowledge on practice of proper personal hygiene to prevent spread of mainly water and food borne diseases. There are eight+2 (part time field assistants) persons employed in this program.
Application Type: Program Funding
Start Date: 2009-11-01
Completion Date: 2010-12-31
Conventional dugwells with a modified design to reduce potential bacterial contamination are constructed in carefully selected sites. The shallow dugwells are packed with coarse sand around the annular space to enhance groundwater storage and also act as a filter to some extent. The dugwells are fed by rainwater and are therefore not contaminated with arsenic. Wells are also protected from external contamination by a net cover and a tin roof. Water is withdrawn by traditional hand- pumps. (For pics, published reports and newsletters, please visit www.projectwellusa.org). The water in these shallow dugwells is rainwater or surface water from the surrounding water bodies that contain arsenic within permissible limits.
From 2003 to 2008, due to the El Nino effect, annual rainfall decreased from 380 cm to 70 cm. To increase the depth of dugwells in some areas where availability of water is especially scarce in summer, a new design has been experimented with that has turned out to be groundbreaking. It is a dug/tubewell (PW74GDP1, http://peerwater.org/projects/72 ). A 12” diameter PVC pipe is used to penetrate the thick layer of very fine sand below a depth of 11 feet where, due to sand boiling, manual digging is impossible. This 10-foot long PVC pipe increases the dugwell depth to 21 feet below ground level. Water is now available in abundance in the summer month of May. In 2009 fifteen dugwells are of the average depth of 28 feet. In the coming year, there is plan to construct all deep dug-cum bore-wells.
Yes, over a period of one year.
In 2007 and 2008, 44 dugwells were constructed in the Gaighata block. In 2009, 20 more dugwells are constructed in Gaighata and Swarupnagar. Formal meetings with local government bodies such as Block Development office and the gram panchayats are not needed for the construction in 2010 because they were informed about the project in the past. But for new districts like Nadia, there is plan to implement new dugwells in the Chakdaha block, we have met with the government officials and more meetings will be needed. The demand for more dugwells is high mainly in Gaighata, where the population is large and people are aware of the arsenic effects, since many people have died from arsenic poisoning (refer to videos VDPW1 and VDPW2 at projectwellusa.org ). In 2008, 20 village meetings were held before construction. Similar village meetings will be held at the proposed villages and will be organized by experienced field workers. Door-to-door campaigning is no longer needed because information on dugwell water has spread through the community; additionally, the ex-public health officer of Gaighata organized a health fair at which dugwell water was one of the main topics of discussion. After a few meetings with prospective beneficiaries, the communities donate sites. (The dugwell is not constructed on any government property). A sense of ownership develops from the very start through this donation of a plot of land by the community. After approval of the selected sites by experts, based on local geology and existence of arsenic contaminated tubewells nearby, community-based groups (CBG) are formed. These groups comprise people who will be using the dugwell water. The family that donates the land becomes the chief caretaker. To maintain the well, training is given to a person in the community who is capable of measuring the volume of water in the well, from which the dose of disinfectant is determined. A user-friendly chart is given as a guide for the dose of disinfectant to be applied. In areas where it is hard to find a literate person, a field worker measures the water and gives the dose for three weeks for the users to apply. The disinfectant is purchased by the CBGs and they also take care of minor repairs to any wear-and-tear of the well and the hand pump. Once a year, arsenic analysis is done by the implementer. A sense of ownership and investment develops amongst the users as they pay to obtain arsenic-safe water.
Government interaction comes only prior to start the program in a block just to inform them about out work in the areas to avoid any duplication. Sometimes the government officials, for instance, the members of the panchayet help us in selection of sites that later are approved scientifically by the experts of the partner NGO, Aqua Welfare Society.
Project Well keeps a database evaluating the use of the dugwells with the help of a Google map and Excel file that relates the two components: Dugwell identification number and number of users. The Excel file also contains an assessment of the quality of water. In addition, the field workers record notes of all the technical wear-and-tear that are fixed by the consumers if there are enough collected funds; otherwise, the cost is subsidized from the Project Well fund. Consumers are visited by grassroots field workers monthly during the first year and quarterly later, and asked about outbreaks of diarrhea and dysentery. Once a year, a senior Project Well member visits some of the dugwells selected at random from the map to cross-check data produced by the field workers.
Research and Development on the dugwells is ongoing. This year, the newly designed deep dugwell was under observation regarding the quality and volume of water throughout the year. In the month of April the height of water was four feet excluding the ten feet in the extended pipe. In total there was 14 feet water. The bacteriogical analysis, to measure total and fecal coliforms, of 2008 are available in the pdf report of January 2009 and analysis of new dugwells of 2009 are scheduled and results will be available at the end of the year. Arsenic concentration is measured routinely once a year in all the dugwells, new and old.
1. One of the issues is a matter of concern to me that is the pipeline scheme in West Bengal. The government of West Bengal has supposedly undertaken a scheme to provide pipeline water in the villages. It is crucial for us to know the plan, the map of exact location of the pipeline to avoid any duplication. It can be made available on the internet for all to refer. Last December 24th we went to visit a few dugwells PW#46 and 47 at Kamdebkathi and found that pipeline was implemented up to the dugwell PW 47 (Sukanto Mondol) and not further though according to a beneficiary of dugwell said that the remaining pipes were taken away instead of installing them for another tap point. To get drinking water that too has the chlorine taste, some consumers walk for 3-5 minutes to the school playground. And we also found that the tap that was installed three months ago was already broken and water was gushing out. What a waste of treated water! There is no maintenance plan nor there is anybody to inspect on the work completed properly according to the plan. When and how to change this practice is a big question?
2. One of other issue is if the dugwell is located in a person’s land, who willingly had given the space for the dugwell for the community, has any difference in political, religious or family views that of the neighbors, then dugwell water would be underused. Such people would prefer to drink arsenic contaminated water from its own tubewell rather than getting water from the dugwell. These people give more importance to family feud, political affiliations rather than public health. They would not even attend the health meetings as they come to know that ‘water’ would be topic of discussion.
The users would require to purchase theoline, the disinfectant, and also repair minor wear and tear. The dugwells will be visited by the field workers every month for one year to get technical and utility reports followed by inspection once or twice a year.
Maintenance Cost: $40
Prior art before metrics
water analysis 480
training & service fee 1,256
Co Funding Amount:
not known yet
Community Contribution Amount:
Properties to construct the dugwell and fresh cooked meals for the team of diggers and field workers on the days of construction. The communities pay for the maintenance of the dugwells that include chlorination and repair of normal wear and tear.
Fund Requested: $8,000
Implementing Organization: Project Well & Aqua Welfare Society
Aqua Welfare Society, AWS, is the partner NGO of Project Well. Their office is based in the North 24 Parganas. The 7 honorary board members are located in Kolkata. There are only 5 field workers who are interacting with the villagers and beneficiaries, training the users on maintenance of the dugwells, organizing village meetings and health meetings. A technical advisor of AWS is based in Kolkata who visits the village occasionally and one awareness programmer who is in charge of awareness programs in the communities and educational institutions. There is an accountant and also a data entry person on part time basis.