Water ATMs bring smiles to faces of Rajasthan villagers

 31 Aug 2014 - 0:00

Rajasthani women queue up at a water ATM.


Barmer (Rajasthan): An Indian energy major and modern technology have combined to bring about a revolution in two districts of Rajasthan that were infamous due to the scarcity of potable water. Thanks to water ATMs, many otherwise arid villages here have 24X7 access to the commodity at the swipe of a card — at 20 litres for Rs5.
Under Cairn India’s “Jeevan Amrit Project”, kiosks with reverse osmosis (RO) plants have been installed to provide safe drinking water in villages like Bhakharpur, Kawas, Guda, Jogasar, Aakdada and Baytu to benefit 22,000 people.
”The project is a good example of a PPP model, where Cairn India has partnered with the Rajasthan government’s Public Health Engineering Department (PHED), Tata Projects and the respective village panchayats to provide potable drinking water at the doorsteps of the local community,” Cairn India CSR head Nilesh Jain said.
Rajasthan, with 10.4 percent of the country’s geographical area, 5.5 percent of the population and 18.70 percent of the livestock, has only 1.16 percent of surface water available in the country.
The state is one of the driest states of the country. Rainfall is erratic and there is a large variation in its distribution pattern in the state. The average annual rainfall ranges from 100mm in Jaisalmer to 800mm in Jhalawar.
At present, 22 RO plants (17 with the swipe facility) catering to drinking water needs of 22,000 villagers on a daily basis are up and running. The project is expected to scale up in the coming years in terms of number of plants and locations. Through this technology, villagers can now get clean drinking water by swiping their smart cards in the machines installed at the plant,” Cairn India general manager (CSR) Ritu Jhingon said.
The cards come with an initial value of Rs150 and can be recharged for a similar amount. Plans are afoot to also provide Rs20 recharges.
This makes the dispensers self-sustaining, with the revenue earned used by the village’s water committee to meet the running expenses of the RO plant, such as salary of the operator, electricity and maintenance. The surplus money is used to undertake developmental work in the village.
And to maximise its reach, water from the RO plants is transported to the surrounding dhanis (hamlets) through vehicles at nominal charges (Rs1-2 extra, as decided by the water committee). The dispensers are getting increasingly popular among the locals with more and more people purchasing the smart cards.
”Once it was difficult to get water, forget about clean water to drink. Now things have changed. I can, at any time, get clean water for my family,” Ram Pyari, a resident of Kawas village, said.
The number of water-borne diseases, such as diarrhoea in children, has also come down. Cases of joint pain caused by high fluoride content in drinking water have also decreased.