This is a story about a bureaucrat who went one step forward to ensure that continuous water supply was available to the residents of a remote village in Odisha and that too, without using electricity!
Kendhujhari is a tribal village surrounded by forests in the Similipal Biosphere of Mayurbhanj District in Odisha. Its remote location and scarce water supply meant that the villagers (more than 80 families) would have to fetch water from a small stream named Belda, which dries up during the peak summer months. The villagers desperately wanted access to water throughout the year, to meet their basic needs.
Rajesh Pravakar Patil, the former collector of Mayurbhanj district of Odisha, was sympathetic to the needs of the villagers, but receiving regular water supply was not an easy task. This is because, besides the rain, the only natural resource was the stream.
He figured that one idea that could work was to preserve the spring water, filter it, create pressure, and route it through the terrain to the households and farms. In 2014, Patil envisioned and proposed a project to route the water from the stream to the village area and farms for drinking water and irrigation.
The challenge was to locate the strategic point from where water would be diverted as the stream flowed with many breaches and water flow was inconsistent.
Secondly, to establish a channel to connect the stream water to the village homes and the cultivable area was difficult considering the terrain. Last but not the least, the drinking water needed minimum filtration with a consistent flow for which a system of a small dam and reservoir was required.
Refusing to back down, Mr Patil conceptualised an innovative project to bring in water without any energy consumption to the village. He instructed Bramhananda Pradhan, an executive engineer to design and execute the plan in minimum possible time. This was a considerable challenge, especially since using electricity was not an option, but the team of engineers and contractors managed to execute it. This project started in 2014 and was completed in 2015.
The system works in the following way:
1) Water is collected from the intake point and stored with the help of an impound wall which also blocks dry leaves and forest waste.
2) This water is then made to flow using pipes of different diameters through a trench to reach the distribution point.
3) From here, the stored water flows into the cultivable land for irrigation.
4) For domestic use, the water is again filtered in a Rapid Reverse filter system, where it goes through layers of sand pebbles and charcoal and settles at the bottom to be further distributed through PVC pipes in the village.
Now the villagers who used to walk almost five km to fetch water, get it at home, and the land is flourishing with lush green crops.
The villagers are into agriculture and grow vegetables all through the year which has given them a better livelihood. The fact that all this has happened without any electricity being used is a fantastic achievement!
Mr Patil has had a significant impact on the development scenario of Mayurbhanj District, and with his determination to bring sustainable change at the grass root level, the district and the people have benefitted in many ways.
The villagers remember Mr Patil to this date and often say that “Sir amaku jiban daan deiki gale,” (Sir has given us the gift of life through his efforts).
(This article has been written by Subhasree Mukherjee)