East Medinipur Project

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The Public Health Engineering Directorate (PHED), Government of West Bengal with technical and financial assistance from Asian Development Bank has taken up a Project called West Bengal Drinking Water Improvement Sector Improvement Project (WBDWSIP).

The Project name, to a great extent self-explanatory, is being rolled out in 4 districts in the State with different as well as mixed challenges, posed by the nature.

In East Midnapur district, WBDWSIP, has launched one of the State’s most ambitious plans as its Sub-Project. It will cover the rural and semi urban areas with treated piped water supply ensuring sustainable provision of 70 lpcd (litres per capita per day) to each habitation affected by saline water.

Of the 3 Sub-Projects of WBDWSIP now active, it aims to provide drinking water security, with an objective of a complete shift from hand pumped tube-wells in a phased manner. It targets potable water connections to individual houses through combination of sources -- groundwater, surface-water and rain water harvesting – appropriate for local conditions and project economics.

Borderless salinity intrusion and the resistant technologies

After recording intrusion of salinity in this Bay of Bengal-touched district, and its criticality arising out of Climate Change phenomenon, the West Bengal Government has initiated moves to identify solutions sustainable in the long run.

A total of 15 blocks -- Contai-I, Deshpran, Contai-III, Ramnagar-I, Ramnagar-II, Tamluk, Nandakumar, Mahisadal, Sutahata, Haldia, Khejuri-I & II, Nandigram-I, Nandigram-II and Chandipur -- of the district are facing salinity induced potable water unavailability issues.

There are more related issues that also require institutional attention and intervention. Apart from rise in the sea level, the vulnerability of the coastal areas from recurrent cyclones accentuates the salinity of the soil too. The combined effect, in turn, is adversely influencing human wealth and development almost on a regular basis.

Underground sweet water spots are destroyed by tidal and cyclonic flooding from time to time.

East Medinipur, the target districts, is also witnessing declining ground water levels and increase in vulnerability to climate change impact.

The Sub-Project is to dynamically monitor and factor in such elements to tweak its strategy and implementation designs for a long-term result.

Aims

The Sub-Projects targets to ensure

* sustainable saline-free water supply of 70 litres per capita per day (lpcd) to each habitation in the affected blocks;

* house-to-house connection;

* delivery of services by the system for its entire design period of quality of water in conformity with the prescribed standards;

* at convenience, equity and consumer preferencepoints;

* empowerment of communities to monitor and maintain surveillance on their drinking water assets and systems;

* engagement of Panchayat Raj Institutions and local governments;

* that all schools and anganwadis have access to safe drinking water sources;

* access to information through online reporting mechanism;

* bringing in transparency, accountability and informed decision making through information placement in the public domain.

Overall, the Sub-Project objective is aligned to main WBDWSIP goal to meet the requirements of “VISION 2020”, endorsed by the State Government, and in line with the guidelines and implementation framework of National Rural Drinking Water Programme.

Operatives

Though the Sub-Project is open to any economically viable solution, surface water based piped water supply seems to more managable for its economy of scale and deliverable quality improvement.

Membrane-based desalination plants (or Reverse Osmosis technology) for saline ground water provide a technical alternative, but it is expensive. Adoption of it on a wider scale could be limited even if they are run by non-conventional energy source like solar of wind power.

Several unconventional ways of potable water supply are being made encompassing pond- based water supply systems, rain water harvesting, promoting conjunctive usage of water, augmenting / recharging and monitoring ground water reserves.

The PHED has already outlined pond-based system and rainwater harvesting as possible means to meet the salinity challenges.