Floodproof handpump in Bahraich. Photo: District Administration, District Bahraich, Uttar Pradesh, India
In Bahraich district of northern Uttar Pradesh, India, handpumps fitted on a raised platform were the only source of drinking water to the 400,000-odd people during floods. The idea for the raised handpumps was promoted by District Magistrate Rigzin Samphel and now serves as a model for other flood prone districts of the state. Samphel also helped to build flood-proof toilets for women in Bahraich.
Every year during the monsoons, when the Ghaghra river brims over, [and] desperate villagers end up drinking turbid floodwater. “The floods inundate all the wells, tube wells and hand pumps. So there’s no drinking water,” says Dharamraj, a 40-year-old farmer in [Sohras] village.
The result: widespread illnesses and even some deaths.
This year has been better.
Exactly 200 flood-prone villages in Bahraich district were fitted with four hand pumps each, the crude water fetching devices mounted on raised platforms rather than at ground level so they wouldn’t be submerged during floods. When the floods first came this year in mid-July, these hand pumps —the only source of drinking water to the 400,000-odd people in these villages — delivered clear and potable water.
District Magistrate Rigzin Samphel said he got the idea for the raised handpumps at a meeting with villagers when they asked him “If the flood water goes high why can’t our existing hand pumps too go high’?”
Following a survey, Samphel decided to raise four existing hand pumps in each of 200 flood-prone villages.
Then came the design.
Jal Nigam, a government body to oversee water supply in the state, proposed a 1m-high rectangular platform. The idea was debated in an open forum of block development officers (BDOs) from flood-affected areas, engineers from the state’s flood division and Jal Nigam officials.
At the end of the meeting, they decided on flat top platforms with sloping bases for the hand pumps. The slopes would diminish the force of the floodwater and the 2.9m-high platforms would offer a safe spot for people to stand on and draw water.
There was a bigger problem now. The refitting would need Rs 14,000 [US$ 315] per hand pump, or Rs 1.12 crore [US$ 252,000] for 800 of them. After pondering over several options, Samphel and the team decided to finance the project with funds from the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, or MGNREGA – a flagship scheme for providing 100 days of employment to one member in every poor rural household.
To prevent leakages [corruption], Samphel decided against transferring the budget to Jal Nigam, saving on the department’s charges, and instead handed over the funds to the BDOs.
“This was because the project had to (be) accomplished swiftly. So instead of giving funds to 155 village pradhans (village heads), we gave the money to four BDOs. This way I could have better control over the project,” he says.
Uttar Pradesh’s relief commissioner has now asked other flood-affected districts in the state to adopt the model.
And under the government-funded Sampoorna Swachata Abhiyan (SSA) sanitation scheme, Samphel also helped to build flood-proof toilets for women in Bahraich. Since the scheme had no provision to fund such a project, Samphel used SSA’s 15% publicity budget instead. Samphel gave instructions to paint ‘safe sanitation’ messages on the toilet walls.
The Economist magazine, in 2008, rated Samphel one of the most hard-working bureaucrats in the world. The same year, he won an award from the rural development ministry for his implementation of MGNREGA.
Samphel is single. The demands of his work, he says, don’t leave him much scope to get married.
For more information read the case study “WAT-SAN: Bahraich Model“
In 2005 raised handpumps were also introduced in flood-prone areas in Assam by the Rural Volunteers Centre (RVC) at a cost of INR 10,000 (US$ 225) per handpump, see the case study “Flood resilient WatSan structures : community hand-pumps on raised platforms”.
Source: Pankaj Jaiswal, Hindustan Times, 23 Sep 2010