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Clean & Bright: Bringing Water and Light to India

Posted on 5/22/2018 12:00:00 AM in The Buzz

Children in Chikulia village proudly carry home packages of solar lights, which will improve safety in the home and enable them to study at night.

Grand Circle Foundation recently funded a project in India to bring clean water and light to a local village. Solar Village Project (SVP) and Community Pure Water (CPW) completed the project and brought these life-saving necessities to the community.

By Joe Kselman, Director, Solar Village Project

In September of 2017, Solar Village Project (SVP) implemented projects in the off-grid villages of Chikulia and Pahari in the Mirzapur District of Uttar Pradesh. The goal of the project was to provide homes, which were without access to electricity and clean drinking water, with a minimum of 800 lumens of lighting per household and a minimum of two liters of purified drinking water per person per day.

In all the villages we work with, we have learned that waterborne illness is a major problem and concern for the inhabitants. The main sources of water in the villages are bore wells with hand pumps that are extremely unsanitary. Therefore, with our continued growth and success, SVP has recently decided to begin incorporating solar water pumps and water filtration systems into our projects.

There are multiple ways our projects improve lives in the communities we work with. Access to electricity allows for greater productivity in the home and enables children to study at night. It reduces the dangers of fire and the health hazards of indoor air pollution associated with using kerosene for lighting. It also saves significant time and money previously spent on purchasing kerosene for lighting and traveling to local markets to charge cell phones. With the added benefit of clean drinking water, we expect to see a significant decrease in waterborne illness and lower infant mortality rate in the village.

Chikulia, during the initial phase of construction for the water filtration and solar array.

Initial construction on this specific project began on March 4 of this year, and was completed on March 31. On April 1, the solar array and accompanying hardware were installed at Chikulia, and on April 2, installation of the water filtration plant began, with full commissioning taking place the following afternoon.

On April 3, SVP traveled to Pahari Village to distribute lights to all the homes and survey the water situation in order to get a better understanding of the logistics necessary to install a filtration plant there. We did our standard demonstration on how to operate and maintain the solar lights and cell phone chargers.

Solar panels being installed at Chikulia.

We determined that providing water for Pahari will require a new bore well to be dug at least a few hundred yards away from the base of the village which sits on a small rocky hill. This meant we needed a sizeable solar array at the site of the well to pump the water from the ground and up to the village where the water filtration plant will be located. In the village itself, there will be a separate solar array that will power the water filtration plant. The system in Chikulia required 5kw of solar power, and we estimated it will take at least 8kw to adequately supply Pahari.

On April 4, we returned to Chikulia for the last time in order to make sure the local water manager was ready to take over operations of the plant, to talk to the people about their opinion of the new water filtration plant, and to survey some of the homes to see how their solar lights were working six months after the initial distribution. We were happy to find that in all the homes we entered, the lights were charging in preparation for use later in the evening and that in general, the people were optimistic that access to clean water would have a positive impact on their daily lives.

A Chikulia resident draws water from a newly installed spigot.

Community Pure Water (CPW) made arrangements for the delivery of two hundred 20-liter cans that the people of Chikulia will be given to use for their filtered water. They also made arrangements to have a 1000-liter stainless steel tank delivered in May to replace the temporary plastic filtered water tank being used. When CPW returns in May to deliver the 20-liter cans and install the stainless steel tank, they will also be sending their “water motivator,” an individual who has been trained to help people understand the importance of potable water.

One of the goals main goals of this project was to help lower the frequency of common waterborne stomach and digestive ailments which result from the use of hand pumps and open wells. In the past, CPW commissioned a study in an area where they had planned to build some water filtration plants. They tracked the number of people visiting the local health clinic with the symptoms commonly found in waterborne illness and found a drastic decrease in that number after the installation of the water filtration plants in the area. Studies have shown that there is a positive impact that directly correlates to increased household income and education when there is access to safe drinking water. There is no doubt that clean, bright light and safe drinking water are two critical elements necessary for the positive development of impoverished communities.

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