03Jul2014

Transition Sweeps Through Shehzadpur

Shehzadpur village is located at the foothills of denuded Aravalli range in the semi-arid district of Mewat in Haryana, India. The village used to have approximately 250 households that were primarily dependent on rain fed agriculture. The groundwater in the area is highly saline and unfit for agricultural and domestic purposes. The village also lacked proper drainage systems, which resulted in wastewater stagnating on the streets. The stagnant water used to cause frequent bouts of water borne diseases such as typhoid, diarrhea, and malaria. Villagers had given up hope that they could improve wastewater management in their village.

In 2011, Sehgal Foundation began implementing Jaldhara (stream of water) in Shehzadpur. Jaldhara is a water management project, largely funded by the Coca-Cola India Foundation. The project has brought about a metamorphosis in the village.

When Jaldhara began, many villagers were unsupportive as they had accepted their unhygienic living conditions and did not believe change to be possible. Sehgal Foundation worked to build a rapport with the community and mobilized villagers to come together on the issue. Women, who are usually silenced, came forward and explained how they have suffered from the unhygienic conditions.

Shehzadpur village has a Village Development Committee (VDC) that is comprised of male and female village representatives. The committee meets at regular intervals to ensure that village development structures are maintained. The VDC also communicates between villagers and project teams to ensure that projects are successfully completed.

During community mobilization, Sehgal Foundation looked for village opinion leaders that could help spread awareness about the Jaldhara project. Azad, a 40-year-old resident of the village and also the ex-sarpanch (village council leader), came forward to speak to the village after he was sold on the Jaldhara project. Azad took great interest in the project and proposed that it be started incrementally. He suggested that they tackle the most pressing problem first, wastewater disposal. Sehgal Foundation began work by teaching villagers about the health hazards that result from stagnant wastewater. They proposed that soak pits can solve the problem. Soak pits are based on the simple principle of filtration. They consist of a circular pit, about one meter in diameter and one meter in depth. The pit is filled with filter materials that are easily available: pebbles, sand and brickbats. The pits soak up wastewater on the streets back into the ground, filtering it along the way.

Sehgal Foundation constructed 8 soak pits along a street with the worst conditions. Allahrakhi, a Below Poverty Line woman residing in the lane where the first soak pit was built, said, “I was doubtful whether this pit would be able to solve the problem.” Villagers saw a difference within a week after the soak pits were built. The street was clean and dry. The success of the soak pits built confidence and trust in the project amongst the villagers. After the demonstration, villagers agreed to adopt other interventions in the village. A total of 60 soak pits have been constructed in the village, and more are on the way.

Urmila, a team member from Sehgal Foundation said, “Earlier the streets were often water logged and it was difficult to pass through the roads. Construction of soak pits has changed the typical state of the village. The roads are clean and the children can be seen playing on roads.” She notes that very few cases of malaria have been reported in the village since and tells the community that she now hopes that latrines are constructed in their households to make the environment even more hygienic. The community was greatly impressed by the intervention and feels that their problems will soon come to an end.

Shehzadpur’s success shows how small interventions can have a positive impact on people’s lives. Sehgal Foundation constantly develops and replicates models to expand villages’ water development. Azad and fellow villagers are keeping high hopes that the VDC will be able to sustain the infrastructural improvements in the village. This is a perfect example of how community efforts can lead to success.

For more information, please contact:
Email: communications@smsfoundation.org