New Delhi: It is important to know the quality of water as it is critical for people’s health and well-being. Empowering women to monitor water quality at the community level using Field Test Kits (FTKs) is a priority under Jal Jeevan Mission. There is a shift in the approach of water quality monitoring & surveillance from the closet of the departmental prerogative to the right of the community. This new approach has expanded partnership with the community and not just “shifted the responsibility”. It has demystified the belief that water quality management is not a domain of PH engineers but communities can take it up if properly guided.
Rural Water Supply & Sanitation (RWS&S) department, Odisha ran a month-long campaign from 1st to 30th November, 2020 to test 4 lakh water sources like hand-pumps, tube-wells, dug-wells, delivery points through Self Help Groups (SHGs) by enhancing their skills.
The SHG members collected samples and conducted the test in presence of community and sensitized them if any contamination was found in the drinking water source. All the samples that showed contamination either bacteriologically or chemically were sent to district & sub-divisional level laboratories for confirmation.
The diagrammatic form of capacity-building framework of the Campaign helped even the lowest literate communities from hinterland like Malkanagiri, Nawarangpur, Sundergarh in testing of water sources using FTKs. It was challenging for the department to ensure testing of water sources during COVID-19 pandemic. 12 thousand Self-Employed Mechanics (SEMs) & more than 11 thousand members of women Self-Help Groups (SHGs) were trained & provided with 7,000 FTKs to act as water warriors. The State Water Testing Laboratory of RWS&S, Odisha created a pool of resource persons of 105 Lab personnel and 314 Junior Engineers at Block level. These resource persons are the driving force in mentoring the SEMs & SHGs for the Campaign.
As a result, 3 lakh water sources were tested by these water warriors. Now the department has a cadre of 11 thousand skilled women to carry out bacteriological testing twice and chemical testing once in a year. This initiative under Jal Jeevan Mission will inspire scores of women folk to come forward and play a vital role in drinking water sector.