Kalekhatala-2 Gram Panchayat, Burdwan – Till a few years back, the local homeopathy centre used to be crowded every day. The people in the area used to be afflicted with various forms of ailments and disease. One of the major forms was water borne diseasethat brought about various illnesses such as diarrhoea, skin pigmentation, arsenic poisoning and skin cancer and many people of the area were affected with arsenicosis. The problem was magnified as the contaminated ground water was the only source of drinking water.
The community in the area was worried and once it was known that the ground water is arsenic contaminated, queries were raised on the effects of such poisoning. Since they did not have any information on the effects of arsenic poisoning, there were speculations effects and severity ranging from possible skin lesions, disorders of the circulatory and nervous system, hyperkeratosis and hyper pigmentation in palms and soles, arsenical dermatitis, as well as a host of gastrointestinal disorders and manifestations like weakness, chronic respiratory disease, peripheral neuropathy, liver fibrosis, peripheral vascular disease.
With the ongoing crisis, a timely solution was necessary with necessary commitment of time, expertise and funds. Remedy of chronic arsenic toxicity wassimple – Arsenic free water. However, achieving that was difficult!
Through the ISGP Project allocation of Rs. 6,36,000,00.00/- (Rupees Six lakhs thirty six thousand only) the aim to install the water treatment plant was envisioned. Through the joint effort of Panchayat functionaries, ISGPP District Coordination Unit members, the safe drinking water plant in DakshinParuliaBarujibi hamlet came into existence, keeping in mind the society, and of course the environment. Over the years the village has become free from arsenic, bacteria and from the curse of arsenic poisoning. Even the houses in Jahannagar, Purbasthali, Dogachia and Kalekhatala-1 GP can now heave a sigh of relief! Safe water is available, not just when, but whenever needed. Special attention has been given to the fact that the impurities never end up in the local ponds. The purpose of maintenance of this plan has facilitated the livelihood for the common people too.
Further counselling included a change in water use among village populations, realization of health benefits, and increased awareness of health risks and safe hygiene practices. Water safety has been consistently gauged with the help of external agencies. Clear and consistent rules for collecting water have been monitored by caretakers and committee members.
Many people remain unaware about the effects of arsenic poisoning due to lack of education and apathy. ISGPP started awareness initiatives on the cause, effect and remedies for arsenic poisoning. Social counselling among the communityled to lessening of social stigmatization of affected women and children and community members are now convinced that the effects of arsenic poisoning are neither infectious nor hereditary.
The results of the water treatment plant have been remarkable. Around 1800 people from 380 households and 100-120 shopkeepers have been benefitted. Moreover, the water treatment plant has facilitated the Gram Panchayat to generate a surplus income of Rs. 4,30,000.00/-thereby strengthening the GP financially.
Due to health and hygiene training, health knowledge, attitudes, and practices have also improved in these villages. Awareness and knowledge regarding the importance of safe water is evidenced by water collection practices among many villagers according to the health worker and water committee. Water committee members and the health workers state that people are becoming more aware. They are washing their water containers before filling them, and covering them afterward, reducing the potential for waterborne disease. All courtesy safe drinking water!