By Priyanka Khanna
Car Nicobar, Andaman & Nicobar Islands: 28 December 2005: Quiphas, a strapping 22-year-old youth, strolls around the Savai Intermediate Shelter in Car Nicobar island with a new confident stride. He is responsible for ensuring that the newly installed water harvesting systems in his Intermediate Shelter in this tiny island work well and community members follow hygienic practices.
People have moved deeper inland to places that have no water resources; ground water is no good and roads are virtually non-existent.
He is one of hundreds of UNICEF-trained youths in this tsunami-devastated island, part of the 572-island Andaman and Nicobar archipelago with a prominently tribal population of 20,000.
The tsunami claimed more than 3,500 lives in the islands, destroying property worth millions and almost all cultivable land. Water supply infrastructure and roads were all but wiped out and bringing clean water to people living in shelters far away from the coast, became a daunting challenge for the administration.
Quiphas’ father Thomas Phillip is happy at his son’s apparent involvement in his project, “He used to roam about aimlessly. After the training he has become more responsible and is not shy of telling people much senior to him about maintaining rainwater harvesting systems, washing hands before eating and toilet maintenance,” says he proudly.
“People have moved deeper inland to places that have no water resources; ground water is no good and roads are virtually non-existent. Water has to be taken to them in tankers and delays happen. Rainwater harvesting is a good long-term solution for us and we can employ this in our permanent houses too,” says Wilson Amos, Education Officer of Car Nicobar Island.
Rainwater harvesting is a good long-term solution for us and we can employ this in our permanent houses too.
UNICEF played a key role in arranging the supply of clean drinking water to tsunami-hit communities across affected areas in India within 48-hrs after the disaster, and saw the need for sustainable drinking water solutions that has community members in the lead role.
The rainwater harvesting systems in all Intermediate Shelters are among the efforts in that direction.
UNICEF also sensitized community members on the importance of hygiene and sanitation, especially given their new congested living conditions.
Members from within the community were trained and appointed as agents for change. Across all the tsunami-hit communities, UNICEF volunteers ensure regular maintenance of water and sanitation facilities; carry out testing of water for suitability; and sensitize people on the importance of following basic hygiene and sanitation.