Sadanda Nath, a school teacher at Rajamayong said, “In every cluster of surrounding villages at least 6-7 children would die from water-borne diseases.”
“The floods ravage our lives every year. One of our main concerns in this village has been scarcity of drinking during the flood season and contaminated water during the winter season. But since this water filter machine was installed here, incidents of diarrhoea, cholera, typhoid has decreased”, said an ecstatic Arunimai Devi, a septuagenarian resident of the village.
She was describing how life at Rajamayong village changed after an RO plant was installed in the village to provide potable and safe drinking water in 2017.
It all started with Manoj Das, former director of Indian Institute of Entrepreneurship (IIE) taking the initiative to address the water worries in the area when he visited the village in 2016. He formed a village committee which would take the ownership of the plant. Das also provided a sustainable model for the RO plant by introducing the pricing system. A villager can by water for Rs. 1 per litre if they collect it from the plant and for home delivery, the vendor charges Rs 2 per litre. “This is an entrepreneurship model as well,” as Das described it.
Any project without a sponsor can’t see the light of the day. NBCFDC under the leadership of KN Narayan, CMD took the bold step of sponsoring the project with an initial outlay of Rs 13 lakh.
Barely 35 km from Guwahati city, this small village had been suffering from devastating floods year after year and the extent of their misery can be gauged from a statement made by Sadanda Nath, a school teacher and a resident of the village, when he said, “In every cluster of the surrounding villages at least six-seven children would die every year from water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera, and typhoid etc, due to consumption of unfiltered water.”
Nath, who is about to retire in a few months’ time added, “Skin diseases were so rampant that students would skip school for weeks.”
However, the RO plant installed by former director of Indian Institute of Entrepreneurship Manoj Kumar Das made a life changing difference in the lives of the villagers. Nath stated, “The water filter must have brought respite to at least six to seven thousand families in Rajamayong, Hatimuria, khotibheti and other two-three neighbouring villages.”
Dr Utpal Nath, lecturer at Mayong College, reflected upon the importance of the small water plant, “The plant provides water at a minimal cost to the poor people and has incredibly reduced the health issues that were earlier being reported from this area. Apart from the villagers, hospitals, police, BSF camps, and schools availed the water service from here. In fact doctors at our Public Health and Engineering (PHE) have started recommending people to use this plant’s water for drinking purpose.”
Drinking Water woes in Assam
Despite receiving annual average rainfall of around 2,818 mm per year, safe drinking water is a rarity in Assam. According to state government reports at least 24 district have contaminated water.
Replying a query in October last year, Public Health and Engineering minister Rihon Daimary informed the state assembly that 24 districts of Assam have been contaminated by arsenic, while the other 13 districts have been affected by fluoride.
Arsenic contamination was so high in some areas of Assam, including Karbi Anglong, Morigaon, Darrang, and other districts in western Assam that the water from these areas was termed as “toxic”.
The minister also pointed out that the ground water from 6,881 areas of 24 districts were contaminated with arsenic and in at least 930 areas in 13 districts of the state were contaminated with fluoride.
Despite the introduction of 277 schemes for treating arsenic contamination and 40 schemes for fluoride treatment, safe drinking water continues to remain a major concern, but the installation of the RO plant does bring a respite to some of those suffering from unsafe drinking water.