WEST BENGAL: Once forced to drink arsenic- contaminated ground water, residents of a remote hamlet in West Bengal near Indo-Bangla border are now purifying water from ponds and selling packaged safe drinking water to neighbouring villages.
Using a new innovative technology from France, village co-operative society Madhusudankati Samabay Krishi Unnayan Samity has constructed a water purification project which converts contaminated pond water into safe drinking water.
The co-operative is now supplying arsenic-free drinking water to a hundred families located in Madhusudankanti and selling it to nearby villages of North 24 Parganas district at only 50 paise per litre.
"At present we are purifying and selling 2000 litres of water every day after packing it in jars and bottles.
Around 200 families from outside the village are also our customers," co-operative chairman Haladhar Sharma told PTI.
Labelled as 'Sulabh Jal', the project is funded and conceptualised by Sulabh International which had pioneered the Sulabh Sauchalya (Sulabh Toilets) in the country.
Sulabh founder Bindeshwar Pathak said the water purification technology had been tested in Cambodia and Madagascar but is being used on a larger scale for the first time in the village.
"This is the first time in the world that we have succeeded in producing pure drinking water at a very nominal cost by this new technology," he said.
Located in Gaighata block, the remote village is 14 km away from Bangladesh border. The model uses a four-stage purification process using alum and UV filter to produce clean water.
"Our production cost is only 30 paise while other costs like distribution, storing, manpower come to 20 paise and so we call sell it easily at 50 paise per litre in jars and bottles," Sharma said.
Every day villagers come to the plant to buy the 20-litre jars of 'Sulabh Jal'.
People from three nearby villages of Bishnupur, Faridkati and Teghoria too queue up to buy drinking water.
For long they had no option but to drink arsenic-contaminated water from tube-wells. Surface water in ponds is free of arsenic but is not fit to drink in the absence of any water purification plant.
The installation cost of the project was Rs 20 lakh, which is shared between the French organisation '1001 Fontaines', Sulabh and the villagers.
Ground water in nine districts of West Bengal including North 24 Parganas has severe arsenic contamination which has affected around 16 million people in rural areas and 12 million in urban areas, said K J Nath, president of the Institution of Public Health Engineers.
According to the World Health Organisation drinking arsenic-rich water over a long period results in various health hazards, including skin problems, skin cancer, cancer of the bladder, kidney and lung, besides other diseases.