Potable water has always been a precious commodity to the people of Upper Kuttanad where the well water is reddish yellow with a mire taste.

However, the drinking water management and sanitation scheme launched by Bodhana, the social service arm of the Thiruvalla Archdiocese of Malankara Catholic Church, in the region has turned out to be a boon to the local population.

A three-member team comprising Tony Thomas, Bobbin Thomas and Siji Mathew have launched the Disaster-based Community Preparedness Programme (DCPP) in the low lying Upper Kuttanad villages of Peringara and Thalavady where drinking water scarcity is acute, says Fr Varghese Maruthoor, executive director of the non-governmental organisation (NGO).

The local people have been mainly depending on the shallow canal waters and reddish yellow well water for their domestic chores as the pipeline carrying chlorinated water of Kerala Water Authority too remained dry most of the time.

The Bodhana project, supported by Caritas India, was aimed at developing different kinds of low cost and location-specific models of water purifiers as part of its water and sanitation management system for Upper Kuttanad, said Mr. C.J. Jacob, project officer.

“Making the people aware of the need for maintaining a healthy lifestyle by improving the sanitation system and purifying the water was out first task,” says Mr. Tony.

The project was first launched at Manalel scheduled caste colony in Thalavady panchayat. A three-tier chamber filter with 300-litre storage capacity was installed close to the well at the colony, at a cost of Rs. 5000, as a pilot project. The colony people supported the project by procuring charcoal, crushed granite and sand for setting up the purification chamber.

A unique combination of sand, metal chips and charcoal is used in a particular ratio to develop the filter media. The muddy water turns clear as it passes through the filter chamber. The cost of the combination filter models developed by Bodhana varies from Rs. 750 to Rs. 5000 depending on the storage capacity, says Mr. Tony.

The treated well water was subjected to quality test at Bodhana laboratory and was found of superior quality and representatives of the NGO visits the village every week to collect water samples for quality test, according to programme co-ordinator.

Now, all the 18 households at the colony have been collecting purified water from the chamber filter for their domestic chores, says a local resident, Gireesh.

Bodhana team have also installed another innovative water purification system in a pond adjoining the colony, besides introducing a sanitation scheme there.

The NGO has successfully installed five medium-sized filter chambers with 150-litre capacity and 100-litre chambers at a few houses in Thalavady panchayat, besides a number of small-scale filter units in

Peringara panchayat, as part of the programme, said Fr Maruthoor.

According to Fr Maruthoor, the indigenous knowledge, blended with a scientific approach and community participation, was what led to the successful implementation of the project.

He said Bodhana was also planning to introduce another unique scheme for filtering the well water by inserting a baby well inside an open well and filling the gap with different filter media.

Mr. Jacob said Bodhana was planning to extend the water treatment scheme to more villages in Upper Kuttanad with active participation of local self-government institutions.

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