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Delwara: Water, Sanitation and Waste

Water and sanitation

Delwara suffered from severe water scarcity in the past. The availability of water depends primarily on the monsoon, with a couple of traditional water-harvesting structures helping to retain rainwater. Over the years, there were few attempts to maintain these structures, and the community used them as garbage dumps.

Most of the population used to receive their water supply from some of the common wells or individually owned borewells. The majority of people did not have access to clean drinking water. In particular, families from marginalised castes did not have access to drinking water or toilets:  women belonging to these groups risked having no privacy during defecation.

Seva Mandir and the Citizens’ Forum made it a priority to rejuvenate the traditional water structures like Palera pond or Trimukhi step-well, engaging the community at large to help in the process. The deepening of Palera improved rainwater retention throughout the year and all the other traditional water structures in Delwara were connected to it, thus helping to refill all the water structures. This concerted effort has ensured that now the community has access to water throughout the year. It has also helped raise the  groundwater level in the area.

Seva Mandir has also developed 55 rooftop water-harvesting structures on private houses. More than 250 toilets have been constructed by Seva Mandir in the past few years, including those using eight Decentralised Waste Water Treatment Systems (installed by Seva Mandir), which has improved the health and hygiene of women and children, in particular those from marginalised communities. In order to improve access to clean drinking water for Delwara’s tribal community, Seva Mandir constructed a water tank and provided water pipes to take water to around 100 tribal households which live in the very uneven, hilly part of the town.

Cleaning and waste management

Waste collection and management are key issues in peri-urban areas as they affect people’s daily lives in multiple ways. Delwara’s citizens, together with Seva Mandir, decided to accord them top priority.

There are currently 12 Aarogya Mitras (cleaning personnel) working in Delwara. The town is divided into 24 small areas, and each Aarogya Mitra is allocated areas to clean.

A garbage collection rickshaw, made available by Seva Mandir, collects rubbish from households who have been made aware of waste segregation, and households and shops pay a monthly fee for the service. The community contribution covers a small part of the total cost involved in the cleaning of town, so there are efforts to make the activity self-sustainable.

One very important element of this process was for Seva Mandir to work on the social status of the cleaning personnel, who generally belong to marginalised groups. Twenty years ago, these groups would have been unable to sit, eat or drink in the company of other communities in the town. The activities and dialogues we introduced have facilitated change in the social relations among the communities. The Citizens’ Development Forum gave the cleaning personnel a platform to share their concerns with the community at large, which would have been unthinkable not so long ago.

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