CHENNAI: Think out of the box, and walk away from conventional norms. This is all you have to do in certain times, to reap the rewards in life. And what if such a decision can make not just the life of one but many — a community — better?
This was exactly what the leaders of Ariyanendal panchayat at Paramakudi taluk in Ramanathapuram considered when their village found it hard to put an end to greywater (wasterwater) stagnation on roads and the related health hazards it brought. Panchayat president S Rajendran and vice-president K Manimuthu discovered a simple but effective solution by tweaking the existing drainage system plan that was commonly followed across the State. Instead of constructing side drains, they decided to put up pipelines to transport greywater from each house to community soak pits. They didn’t want to build concrete drains and connect them to vertical soak pits as the open side drains might get clogged with waste, and require frequent maintenance.
But they hit a roadblock. The funds allotted under the Swacch Bharat Mission to solve the issues in the village were provided only for the construction of concrete drains and not pipelines. “We felt it would be a good model and last longer than the concrete drains. So, the villagers held a meeting and decided to pitch in money for the pipeline,” says Rajendran.
The village has 761 houses of which 392 didn’t have that space to build individual soak pits and had to be connected to community soak pits. Further, the sewer lines were laid at a shallow depth using PVC pipes. Soon the master plan became a reality, reaping instant rewards. As predicted, the pipelines cost only one-third of what is required for side drains and solved the problem of waste accumulation. The gram panchayat further takes care of the cleaning of the community soak pit once a month. “Now, we are a model village in terms of 100% end-to-end management of greywater,” Rajendran says.
The plan not only solved the water stagnation but also improved the underground water recharge level. “Since it is an arid area, we used to get salty water below 200 feet. But now, we get good water at 120-130 feet,” states Manimuthu.
Following the successful implementation of the project, the then director of the District Rural Development Agency visited the village in November last year. “The DRDA ordered the provision of more funds for pipelines for greywater management and recommended them instead of concrete drains,” says S Navaneethan, district DRDA co-ordinator. Further, a seminar organised by the Centre for Science and Environment on ‘Best Practices in Water Supply and Sanitation in India’ showered praises on the panchayat for its innovative efforts.
Now, the village on the Madurai-Rameswaram National Highway is a model for greywater management in the State. But the panchayat hasn’t stopped with just that. It now buys plastic waste from the villagers for Rs 20 a kg, shreds it and sells it for Rs 60 a kg, and further uses them for laying roads.
“We have plans to dig a well to harvest rainwater. The rainwater will pass through two mud drains and concrete drains alternatively amid kalvazhai plants. They will absorb the pollutants and this water will then be used for irrigation. Already, over 80 households in the village are maintaining kitchen gardens with the help of greywater,” adds Rajendran.