They live in a remote tribal area of Odisha but all the families here have running water and toilet facilities. The water is brought up to the village at the hilltop by solar energy.
Sartili, Odisha – Jaya Mani Mondalo used to spend two to three hours every day fetching water for her family. Most days she would have to make the trip to the well seven or eight times. When she had filled her water jugs she would had to climb the hill back to the village balancing the heavy jugs on her head, each weighing around 25 kg. Now she and the other villagers no longer have to carry water. It is not necessary since they now all have running water in the kitchens, in the bathrooms and toilets.
In this remote tribal area around nine hours of uncomfortable driving from the capital of Bhubaneshwar running water is not an everyday commodity. Neither are bathrooms or toilets. Even though Sartili is almost as far away from modern life in India as you can get, all the 43 households in the village have running water, toilets and bathrooms.
In Odisha this is extremely unusual. Less than 5 % of the population in the state has access to sanitation facilities and not even 1% has access to a piped water supply.
Focused on water
The reason why the people of Sartili have running water and toilets is because they decided to join a Gram Vikas water and sanitation project two years ago. Gram Vikas is a rural development organization working with poor and marginalized communities in Odisha. Gram Vikas literally means Village Development.
Chitralekha Ghoudhury, Natural Resource Management, Gram Vikas, explains:
“Since health is the single biggest problem in rural India, we focus on water because more than 80% of the diseases that people suffer from are water-borne. This is why our projects are involved with installing running water and building toilets for all families in a village. Health conditions will only improve if all the people in a village are using the toilets.”
It takes time to convince people why they should join a water and sanitation project. After a village decides to join a project, money has to be raised, you have to find donors and the villagers themselves have to do all the civil work in connection with the project.
In Sartili they sometimes have electricity, but it is not a reliable source of energy, since there are frequent power cuts lasting days, weeks or even months. Also when the current is available the voltage is too low to run a pump. For this reason the pump in Sartili is driven by solar energy, the only reliable source of energy in these areas. The solar pump and panels are donated by the Grundfos Foundation and installed by Sunlit Future as part of the 100 – 100 project which aims at installing 100 solar pumps in 100 villages across India. Gram Vikas is the local partner in the project.
“The entire village is involved in the project and we are happy with the result”, says Jaya Mani Mondalo and adds that the solar pump has allowed her an extra hour or two every day since she no longer has to carry water for her family.
She is married to Limiya Gamango and they have a two year old son. They live in a house with Limiya’s parents and have two acres of land to farm.
“I get up at 4 AM so I have enough time to cook and clean inside and outside before we go to work in the fields around 8 AM. Before we had running water I would also have to fetch the water. While I am working in the field, my mother in law looks after my son”, explains Jaya Mani Mondalo.
Around 4 in the afternoon she returns to the house and start the housework again. Around 8 o’clock it’s time for bed.
“I am happy for the changes the project has given us. I have lots of work to do during the day so I am glad I now have a chance to relax a little since I do not have to fetch water anymore. The water is right here in the house and I definitely feel that our living conditionings have greatly improved”, Jaya Mani Mondalo points out.