plan 29Arsenic Safe Drinking Water: Habra 1


Self-supporting community based mitigation program to provide arsenic safe water


In order to reduce exposure to arsenic in the villages as a short-term method Project Well has developed a self-supporting community based mitigation program to provide arsenic safe water in the affected villages of the districts of N 24 Parganas of West


West Bengal, , India


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Primary Focus: Drinking Water - Community
Secondary Focus: Hygiene Education

People Getting Safe Drinking Water: 400

Total Familes 100
Total Pop 423
Adult 286
Children <18 137
student 85
not student 15
under 5 37

School Children Getting Water: 85

People Getting Sanitation: 0

People Getting Other Benefits:

Start Date: 2005-05-15

Completion Date: 2006-04-15

Technology Used:

Modified conventional dugwells are constructed at carefully selected sites. The diameter of each dugwell is one meter and the depth is generally less than 30 feet. The design and practice of the Project Well dugwells differ from the traditional ones mainly in the following ways: 1. A layer of coarse sand six inches wide envelops the outer wall of the concrete cylinder; 2. The mouth of the concrete cylinder is covered with a nylon mosquito net and a tin sheet that is padlocked to avoid dropping of any debris and tampering; 3. Water is extracted using hand pumps to reduce potential bacterial contamination; 4. Flexible pipes that float with the fluctuating water table are installed. Flexible pipes reduce the inflow of sand from the bottom and also stir the water during pumping, thus facilitating the dispersal of bacterial colonies. 5. The dugwells are disinfected once a month with sodium hypochlorite solution containing 5% chlorine, following USEPA guidelines. The water in these shallow dugwells is rainwater or surface water from the surrounding water bodies that contain arsenic within the permissible limit.


One phase: Phase 5 when ten new dugwells will be constructed, water analyzed for arsenic and bacteria, water chlorinated once a month and training for one year will be provided by the field workers to the user communities on the maintenance of the well

Community Organization:

Six months before the construction of the dugwells, the groundwork is launched by the grassroots field workers, starting with a meeting with members of the local government bodies such as the gram panchayat, followed by several meetings with the villagers, held at prospective dugwell sites. The members of Project Well and the local NGO are also present at the meetings held at the local gram panchayat, or GP. The meeting is held primarily to notify the government about the program before the field workers enter the village and hold meetings with the villagers at the ‘para’ (a cluster of houses) level. Door-to-door campaigning is carried out, during which field workers cover the methods of the program and distribute information sheets on the effects of arsenic poisoning. After a few meetings with the prospective beneficiaries, the communities donate sites. (The dugwell is not constructed on any government property). The sense of ownership develops from the very start by this donation of a plot of land for the dugwell that is shared by the neighbors. After approval of the selected sites by the experts, based on the local geology and existence of arsenic contaminated tubewells, the community-based groups are formed.The family that donates the land becomes the chief caretaker. To maintain the well, training is given to an educated person of 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 the areas where it is hard to find literate persons, a field worker chlorinates the water. Every month Rs. 10/- (25 U.S. cents) is collected from the beneficiary families for the maintenance of the well. The maintenance includes purchase of the disinfectant, repairing any wear and tear of the well, and measurement of arsenic once a year. The sense of ownership and investment develops amongst the users as they pay to obtain arsenic safe water.

Government Interaction:

Ancillary activities:

Educational institutions, government offices (GP's), clubs and women's organizations are also included in the public health education. 90% of the funds are disbursed in the villages. Local raw materials, skilled dugwell diggers and laborers construct the dugwells. Field workers, male and female, with a minimum of a secondary-level education are selected from the arsenic prone villages. There is no discrimination based on religion, political background or economic status. The field workers are given training on the following: 1.arsenic in drinking water and its health effects; 2. bacteria present in food and water and its health effects; 3. the need for chlorination of water; 4. good personal hygiene practices; 5. public relations and how to communicate with the villagers; 6. monthly visits to the villagers and updating the registers on any complaints or comments from the beneficiaries; 7. organizing and holding awareness meetings. The field workers constantly interact with the villagers, whose comments are noted down and discussed at community meetings, to solve any issues as early as possible.

Other Issues:

Research and Development is ongoing on the dugwells in which water contains organic odor and high fecal coliform, occurring mainly when the dugwell is fairly new. The water is treated with lime and, in cases of high fecal coliform levels, is also treated regularly with theoline, the disinfectant that contains 5% chlorine. Villagers are advised not to use the water for a few days during the period of shock treatment. Water analysis to measure the concentration of arsenic levels and total and fecal bacteria of all functional dugwells will be routinely done after construction. Also, every summer when the water levels drop, arsenic levels are measured. Project Well keeps a database evaluating the use of the dugwells (see attached newsletter). Consumers are visited monthly by the grassroots level field workers and asked about outbreaks of diarrhea and dysentery among users of each dugwell. In the winters of 2004 and 2005, door-to-door village surveys were carried out to create the database of the existing dugwells and observation of any outbreaks. There have been no such outbreaks linked to any particular dugwell water use over a period of four years.

Maintenance Revenue:

Community contributes the land to construct the dugwell and Rs.10/- (25 cents) per month per familyfor maintenance of the dugwell that includes application of theoline once a month, dredging and cleaning once a year and repair of any other wear and tear.

Maintenance Cost: $34


Prior art before metrics

Cost: $11,000

Construction of 10 dugwells = 3000
Water analysis and transport during construction=1000; Research program, transport and service charges of the staff = 7000

Co Funding Amount: $7,000

private donors

Community Contribution Amount:

Fund Requested: $4,000

Implementing Organization:

Members of Project Well, CA, USA and Aqua Welfare Society, West Bengal, India All the members are in honorary positions and from various disciplines, as advisors to the dugwell program. The key founding members are: 1. Dr. Meera M Hira Smith, PhD (Geography), President and Director of Project Well, California, USA and researcher at the School of Public Health, Arsenic Health Effects Research Studies, University of California, Berkeley. 2. Dr. Timir Hore, Ph.D (Hydro-geology), Director of Project Well, New Jersey, USA. 3. Mr. Protap Chakraverti, (Geology) advisor of Project Well and Ex-director of Geological Survey of India, Kolkata. 4. Prof. Allan H Smith, (Epidemiology), Treasurer and Director of Project Well and Professor and Principal Investigator of Health Effect Studies on Arsenic in School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley. The other members and advisors of Project Well are: 1. Ms. Cynthia Green (Environmental Engineer) Secretary of Project Well and masters candidate in Environmental and Water Resources Engineering, University of Texas. 2. Ms. Jane Liaw, MPH, University of California, Berkeley, USA. Ms. Lisa Booker, Oakland, California, USA. 3. Prof. Richard Wilson, PhD, Physics, Harvard University, Massachusetts, USA. Honorary Members of Aqua Welfare Society, Kolkata, India are: 1. Mr. Amal Ghosh, (Lawyer), President. 2. Mr. Uday Mukherjee, (Geology), Secretary. 3. Ms. Alpana Hira-Davidson, (Geography, Lecturer) Treasurer. Other members are: 4. Mr. Protap Chakraverti (Geology) Board member 5. Dr. Xavier Savarimuthu, PhD. (Environmental Science) Board member 6. Mr. Somendranath Banerjee (Geology) Board member 7. Mr. Punurdan Dutta (Social Worker) Board member 8. Mrs. Rajashree Hira (Social Worker) General member 9. Ms. Monimala Mishra, MSc. (Teacher) General member Staff: Project Coordinator and Accounts Assistant: Mr. Sekhar Pal, M.Com. Field Workers in the village office are: Field Supervisor: Mr. Dennis Baroi; field worker: Mrs. Farida Bibi; Mr. Surojit Mondol and Mr. Sandip Sarkar.


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  • 2 participants | show more

    Problems with land owners?

    Idriss Kamara of Safer Future Youth Development Project

    Did you ever have problems with the families that own the land, where the well is constructed? How do you avoid that they stop other community members from using the well?

    Did you ever have problems with the families that own the land, where the well is constructed?
    How do you avoid that they stop other community members from using the well?

    • Meera Hira-Smith of Project Well

      *No, through meetings in small groups it is decided whoever could provide suitable land for the community. The land owner signs a letter declaring donating the land (plot no.___) to construct dugwell to provide arsenic safe water to the neighbors. **The water from each well is meant for one community consisting dwellers of 10 nearest h...

      *No, through meetings in small groups it is decided whoever could provide suitable land for the community. The land owner signs a letter declaring donating the land (plot no.___) to construct dugwell to provide arsenic safe water to the neighbors.
      **The water from each well is meant for one community consisting dwellers of 10 nearest houses. There were problems that were solved by: (1) constructing a separate well for the second community; (2) in summer to ensure water for the registered (who pay) users the handle is secured with a chain and padlock, a method that was imposed by the community.

  • Rating: 9

    review by Blue Planet Network

    Excellent presentation!

  • Rating: 10

    review by Watershed Organization Trust

    The modified conventional dug well is an innovative and self supporting community based programme to provide the arsenic free water in the affected villages.

    The village community is involved in the process of problem identification, solutions over the problems and also in the planning, implementation and execution of the activities.

    The contribution of Rs. 10/- per month from each family towards the maintenance of the well helps to build the sense of ownership.

  • Not Reviewed

    by Barefoot College

  • Rating: 8

    review by Safer Future Youth Development Project

    fine project :)
    high operation costs, but they are understandable

Name Status Completion Date Amount Assigned
Arsenic Safe Drinking Water: Habra 1 completed Apr 2006 $4,000