Jhabua (Madhya Pradesh, India) : "We save 250,000 litres of rain water and another 105,000 litres by reusing grey water from bathrooms and kitchens every year," says Ansuya, a class IX student at the girls' residential school (Ashram) in Jhabua. "We know water is precious, and we use it wisely by not wasting it."
The simple straight talk from the tribal girl creates a deep impression on the delegates of the International Learning Exchange, on a field visit to see wise water practices supported by UNICEF in the tribal schools of Madhya Pradesh.
"It conveys the message more effectively than any erudite presentation on water management could," observed Haroon Ali Nawiya, water management expert from Sudan, as he listened to Ansuya's confident presentation of the water safety plan in her school, and how children help in the management of rooftop rain water harvesting and grey water reuse systems installed in the school hostel.
The school, run by Adivasi Chetna Sikshan Seva Samiti of Jhabua, has over 500 students, 175 of whom live in the girls' hostel.
The rainwater from the hostel roof is collected in a covered brick masonry tank through a PVC pipeline, and is chlorinated every 15 days. An overflow pipe for recharge connects the collection tank to the tube-well, the only permanent source of water in the school.
The water used in kitchens and bathrooms is treated and reused for bathing, washing, cleaning toilets, mopping and flushing. Treatment includes an equalisation-cum-settling tank, and filtration units comprising locally available filtering material and storage tanks with baffles for aeration.
"We have started using this for gardening also," Ansuiya tells the delegates from Sudan, Iraq and the Indian state of Jharkhand that now wants to emulate the Madhya Pradesh experience. The young student seems an effective educator, who enjoys her new role.
The Chetna Ashram is a comparatively big school in tribal-dominated Jhabua and Dhar districts of Madhya Pradesh that experience chronic drought. But a similar awareness of water and sanitation was evident in other tribal schools that the international delegation of the Learning Exchange Programme visited during its two-day visit to Madhya Pradesh. These were in Ghata Billod, Ganganagar Machhaliya, Kokawad and Gadwada villages
UNICEF has launched the two-year pilot project for comprehensive wise water management in 10 tribal schools (Ashrams) of Madhya last year, in collaboration with government agencies and civil society groups.
To make the plan child-focussed, it has developed a TULA ROUNDABOUT pump to transfer harvested rain water from underground collection tanks onto the roof, so that children could play while they pumped up water.
In collaboration with Non-Governmental Organisations, UNICEF has also designed a unique grey water recycling system to reduce wastage in the water scarce region.
The project sanctions hand pumps to draw underground water, and put in place rooftop water-harvesting and grey water reuse systems. The idea is to improve school sanitation and reduce the demand for fresh water.
An average of 2,000 litres of grey water is treated every day per project. The treatment includes an equalisation-cum-settling tank and filtration units comprising locally available filtering material and storage tanks with baffles for aeration. The low-cost system comes for about Rs 22,000.
The project was first implemented at a boarding school in Kalidevi village, followed by boarding schools in Kokawad and Umerkote. UNICEF thereafter came out with water-safety plans comprising risk assessment and risk management.
The risk-assessment component encourages students to monitor the quality of treated grey water. Raw grey water and treated raw water are given different colours for easy handling of the system by students and teachers.
These projects have led to an increase in school attendance. But more significant is the change in the attitude of students and teachers toward water safety and sanitation related issues.
Young children learn through songs, dances and games. Awareness of wise water management and sanitation has also become a part of their curriculum. They have formed hygiene and safety clubs to promote awareness in the larger community.
The success of the pilot project prompted the Madhya Pradesh State Government to expand the scheme to other schools.
"By March end next year, we will expand it to 44 more Ashram schools," said an official of the state government. “We plan to cover all the schools.”
Field visits to some project villages left delegates of the International Learning Exchange in Water and Sanitation deeply impressed.
“The idea of reusing grey water is simple and attractive, and we would consider how to use in our country,” said Hatim S Ismaeel, an official of Al-Karada municipality in Iraq.
"It was really a learning experience and I will propose to my Government to emulate the Madhya Pradesh model in my state," concurred B.B. Ojha, Superintending Engineer (Water Quality) from Jharkhand, India.