Water is one of the most critical elements for all living beings on earth and its absence has adverse effect on the overall environment, well-being and the economic stability of the affected region. India is facing one of the worst drought conditions ever seen over the past century with the water tables dropping to lower levels than normal. Some of the worst hit regions include remote districts in the Western part of Odisha like Balangir & Bargarh. For over a decade, these regions have experienced extreme drought conditions year-on-year, with no respite, thereby leading to a severe drinking water crisis, crop failure and distress migration. In addition, villagers in these regions face extreme health hazards due to high levels of fluoride contamination in the limited drinking water resources left with them. The water quality testing by the Department of Water Resources & Sanitation reveals that the fluoride content in water is far more than the acceptable level of 1.5 ppm recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Rise Against Hunger India (RAHI), an international NGO, in collaboration with a local NGO, Ahinsa Club identified these issues disrupting lives in the region and introduced ‘Project Jalseva’, to cater to the needs of the villagers and provide them solutions to overcome the issues of water scarcity, fluoride contamination and water treatment. The aim is to ensure access to safe and potable drinking water for 4,517 families from 20 villages in 3 blocks of Balangir and Bargarh districts during the peak summer months i.e. April to July 2018.
Water counters have been deployed at critical road points to enable the community around the villages to get drinking water. A water committee is set-up within the project to monitor and to ensure that there is proper maintenance, testing & treatment of water and proper utilisation of the available water resources. A water reservoir called the ‘Chahala’, is being created, which in the long run will be a sustainable solution providing clean, fluoride-free drinking water to the villagers as well as the cattle.
Kidney failure, joint pain disabilities are some chronic health ailments, which have led to mortality in these districts in the past and continues to haunt villages in the region. With no alternate source of water, the villagers are forced to drink from the existing fluoride contaminated tubewells and open dug wells, thus risking their lives further. With very little awareness, resources, infrastructure, relief and support over the years, people of these regions are still waiting for sustainable solutions, which could address their issues and concerns.
“Drought has been a major issue in the remote districts of Odisha and over the years, we have noticed the conditions deteriorating in these regions. While working on the plan to provide potable drinking water, we also realised that out of the limited water resources, more than 80% were contaminated with fluoride, which led to extreme health hazards among the villagers.” Said Dola Mohapatra, Executive Director, Rise Against Hunger India.
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The CSR Journal Team