Troubled waters…

“We have actually recorded a drop in sick leaves taken not only by the students but by teachers as well,” says a visibly excited Vijay Bhai , the principal of Motakandagara Primary school. He is  around 32  year old school principal, a village very nearby to the plant vicinity,. Motakandagara lies within the project site of the Coastal Gujarat Private Limited (CGPL), the wholly owned subsidiary of Tata Power Company. And Vijay Bhai’s  school is among those in which the Company has installed a RO plant, to ensure that every member of the school community has access to uninterrupted supply of clean drinking water. This is a part of CGPL’s Project Jalamani and Installation of School RO plant and its impact so far, and as Vijay Bhai indicates – it has been impressive.

Located in the Kutch region of Gujarat, the CGPL project is spread mainly over 6 catchment villages – Tunda-Vandh, Mota Kandagra of Mundra; Nanabhadia, Tragadi and Modva of Mandvi Taluka of Gujarat. This cluster of villages is perennially affected by acute water crisis. People living here use ground water wells as the main source of drinking water. An abundance of Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) has been identified in the water here. Little surprise, therefore, that there is a high incidence of water borne diseases in the region. The water woes don’t end here. In some of the villages, the wells or the pipelines that bring in water to these households are located miles away. And the women spend many hours walking to and fro just to fetch their family’s daily quota.

Water, therefore, poses a formidable challenge for all bodies of authority — an elected government in charge of its electorate or a corporate entity responsible for the communities living in and around its project site. CGPL has made ensuring supply of safe drinking water to the community as its key initiative. Work has, in fact, already begun in earnest, spawning two ambitious projects, Jalmani and Swachh Jal. Jalmani, launched in 2010, focuses on schools. The strategy adopted was setting up RO plants in each compound so that school communities could avail the benefit of uninterrupted supply of clean treated water. CGPL has tied up with the Water and Sanitation Management Organization (WASMO) for technical knowhow and maintenance services. Till date, RO plants have been installed in 15 schools.

CGPL has also provided 242 units of Tata Swatch water purifiers in the school  in line of the philosophy to provide safe drinking water to the school children.

Then in a bid to broaden its beneficiaries base, CGPL launched the Swachh Jal project in 2012. The objective was to provide safe drinking water to households in villages. The strategy here too, was to set up Community RO to secure the future of the water-distressed people living here with the support of the respective Village Panchayat. Today 16 villages ((Tunda, Vandh, Motakandagara, Nanabhadiya, Mtotabhadiya, Tragadi, Gundiyali, Bag, Pipri, Bidada, Bhujpur, Nanikahakar, Motikhakar, Modhva, Bhadreshwar, Shekhai Bag) are a part of this drive that supply safe drinking water to 6771 households. “Of course a steady supply of clean drinking water made available at home, as well as in the schools our kids go to, is like a dream come true. But the real USP of the two CGPL projects is the way these have turned all of us into full-fledged water managers”, declares Anwar bhai, the sarpanch of village Tragadi

History has proved several times that a water secure society works towards improving the conditions of access to water for the poor, enhance education system, and invest in healthcare. It is a world where the most vulnerable — usually women and children — benefit most from good water governance.

CGPL believes in creating partners out of the local communities, who develop the capacity to sustain projects on their own strength and not remain helplessly dependent on the Company.

A very useful lesson to learn for any party or individual ascending the ruling seat for the first time. But is anyone listening?

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