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Access to Potable Water in Slum Communities Using Solar Energy

Using solar energy to provide access to clean drinking water in three slums in Kolkata, India.

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EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

Access to potable drinking water remains a chronic problem in many working class settlements in urban India. In Kolkata even government authorised slums do not have access to potable water. In wards 30, 31, 20 and 10 of the city three slums depend on water collected from leaking corporation water supply pipes. The deep tube wells in the area remain unused, rusting from lack of maintenance. The Municipal Corporation, in charge of water supply in the city, predictably ignore these pockets because they are inhabited by poor and disempowered migrants. To address this problem, in an economically as well as as environmentally sustainable manner, our idea is to install deep tube wells operated by solar energy. In these areas shallow groundwater often contains arsenic and intermediate aquifers are brackish to saline. Exploring aquifers through a number of deep tube wells remains a costly option for the community. Solar energy helps reduce costs. There will be a solar pump for storing water in a community maintained overhead tank. The tank will then redistribute the water among community members thereby reducing the need to install multiple deep tube wells into the aquifer. Kolkata receives 2108 hours of annual sunshine, making solar energy the most easily accessible and harnessed of all available renewable energy sources. This idea not only solves the problem of access to clean drinking water--a fundamental right--but also tackles the issue from a community angle.

WHO BENEFITS?

Families in slums without access to clean water supply are the beneficiaries of this idea. Women of such families will be the greatest beneficiaries of this project. They can have access to potable running water supply instead of travelling to get water from a distance. Seven thousand low income households--rural-urban migrants and climate refugees from Sunderbans--living currently in the wards 30, 31, 20 and 10 of Kolkata Municipality will be the beneficiaries when this idea is implemented.

HOW DOES YOUR IDEA TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE CONTEXT OF URBAN SLUMS AND CLIMATE CHANGE?

In the present scenario, governments in Indian states are pushing for a 'world-class city' tag that often excludes the migrants and urban poor. Planning for the metropolises, as evinced by various masterplans of cities, are essentially marginalizing those labouring at the margins of our cities and these people, whose labour is building the urban infrastructure, are increasingly labelled as undesirable and/or disruptive elements in the urban setting. Therefore, the need of the hour is to empower the communities of such people themselves to create solutions for themselves, perhaps in partnership with and with the support of relevant non governmental organisations. The idea to provide potable water through the use of solar energy involves diverse actors from the community to several non governmental organisation and the support of the local (governmental) municipality chairperson. The idea is a community based one, a design that has been created by the participation of the community members. It is also one that keeps in mind the gendered aspects of living in a working class slum community and tries to ease the burden on women. The idea tries to maximise a limited resource--water--by using a renewable energy source that is available in plentiful supply--sunshine. The idea is one that uses low cost infrastructures in a model that is easily replicate in such communities at the global level.

IN-COUNTRY EXPERIENCE

  • Yes, for two or more years

EXPERTISE

  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for at least two years

GEOGRAPHIC FOCUS

  • Yes

TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF

I am working as Technical Manager with CARITAS India. CARITAS India primarily works for emergency assistance as well as for the development of underpriviledged and marginalized communities. In the city of Kolkata we are an active part of the climate change network.

IS THIS A NEW OR RECENT IDEA FOR YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION? HOW DOES IT DIFFER FROM WHAT YOU ARE ALREADY DOING?

This idea is not exactly a brand new one. In kolkata city about one third of the population stay in slums and access to safe drinking water is an important issue in most of these areas/vulnerable wards. Our partner organization Seva Kendra Calcutta has been doing such experiments in some of these most vulnerable wards and the response is positive. We therefore thought of working together on the issue and help community. Once initiated we believe community will take more stewardship of the same

HOW IS YOUR IDEA DIFFERENT FROM OTHER SIMILAR INITIATIVES? WHAT ARE YOU DOING DIFFERENTLY? WHAT UNIQUE ADVANTAGES DO YOU HAVE?

There are available water resources in these vulnerable wards like small ponds which has got very high algal contamination and polluted also. Also if it is used for access to safe drinking after necessary treatment people ultimately will not use it as there is social taboo also. The only solution for these areas is to go for a deep tube well and use of some energy to lift it from a safe level and distribute to community through an agreed system. The municipal corporation has installed tube-wells and some NGOs too but all are defunct now because of lack of maintenance and high iron content. Nobody has thought of using solar energy yet to lift water through use of solar pump. The idea proposed by me is new in that sense and provide solution to the problem

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR IDEA?

Availability of sunshine would not be a problem for at least 8 months. what about rainy season for at least 3 months i am just thinking about which is very much crucial

WHY DO YOU THINK THE PROBLEM YOUR IDEA SOLVES FOR HASN'T BEEN SOLVED YET?

I surprise why important stakeholders including Government has not used solar pumps yet to solve this problem! The only issue is that some of these vulnerable wards fall into the encroached areas under government land and therefore Government has not shown much interest as a whole even for the recognized slums also

HOW HAS YOUR IDEA CHANGED BASED ON FEEDBACK FROM YOUR COMMUNITY?

Several rounds of community discussion and interaction with all important stakeholders revealed that people are positive about this idea and interested to look forward to see whether the idea can really solve the problem of safe access to drinking water. So there is not much change in the original idea proposed the only thing is that we need to create a model first

WHAT WOULD YOU ULTIMATELY LIKE TO ACHIEVE WITH THIS IDEA? WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP TO GET THERE?

Kolkata will be one of the most vulnerable cities from the perspective of climate change by 2025 and there will more incidents of city flooding particularly the slums and shanties every year and there will be added population every year as people will like to live in cities more as compared to rural areas because of employment options. Water, energy and livelihood will be some of the important challenges for the population.We just want to establish a model and constantly lobby with Government , media, policy makers to emulate similar experiments in other vulnerable wards. Everybody has right to access to safe drinking water so why these communities who are most vulnerable will be deprived..

How does your idea connect to the broader system of the city where you plan to implement?

This idea will open up and strengthen collaboration among all important stakeholders in the Kolkata city namely NGO/academic institutions/researchers/media/Government/policy makers. There are already existing networks on climate change in the city which will be roped into for having joint reviews and meetings. In fact discussion with Municipality Chairman and other concerned people revealed that they are looking forward to see such initiatives through collaborative effort. There are many pockets like this in the city and experiment in one pocket might open up new opportunities and challenges for other places to emulate. Important initiatives in the city are roof top cultivation, use of solar energy for making eco friendly vegetable godowns, aquaponics by some green entrepreneurs. This will be a new addition to all the existing effort by other people. The idea also goes with the conclusion on COP 21 which has emphasized lot on use of alternative energy for solving our basic needs.

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Spam
Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Hi pallab de!

Below is some feedback from our experts. We'd love to hear your responses!

Can you please provide more detail on how you intend to finance the construction of these pumps and who would fund the maintenance over time? If the government, have you already begun conversations with them?

This is great project ideas which I very much like. However I have several questions to the initiative: 1. How much is cost for water is reduced for each household if they start accessing this facility? 2. For one facility, how many household will it serve? 3. How much each installation need? and how much is the cost for maintenance? who will maintain this facility? 4. Do you know the current groundwater level? how will it looks like in the coming 5-20 years? what is the plan in this project to also preserve groundwater to ensure environmental sustainability? which eventually will also benefit these vulnerable people in the future. Thank you and good luck.

Spam
Photo of pallab de
Team

 sorry for little late response as i was out in field in remote areas.
Constructions of submersible pumps are done by many pump manufacturing businesses in India. This can be purchased off the shelf depending on the specification required as may be determined by the following:
1. Depth of water table in the area,
2. Height of the overhead tank,
3. Distance of the end user of water from overhead tank,

How much is cost of water reduced per household.
It needs to be noted here that safe water management by the community is of prime importance. Prior to installation of submersible pumps, functional water committees needs to be in place for determining the end users fees which also acts as a corpus for maintenance. It is to be note that without formation of water committees this initiative may be failure. Secondly, the local municipality should be a stakeholder in the entire process as groundwater is being used and their permission is required for installation of submersible pumps in any bore well.
The location and depth of tubewellsmust be surveyed and integrated with diarrhea and other waterborne disease and other data in a geographic information system. A proxy for tubewell access needs to be developed initially by calculating the local density of tubewells around households. Other issues of importance in water development programmes are wealth, adult female education, flood control, population density and the children ages are to be considered as potential confounders.
Increased access to tubewells is associated with a lower risk of childhood diarrhea. Intermediate- depth wells are associated with more childhood diarrhea compared to shallower or deeper wells. These findings may have implications for on-going efforts to reduce exposure to elevated levels of arsenic contained in groundwater that is pumped from shallow tubewells in most suburban municipalities in West Bengal. It is also very important that groundwater in and around Kolkata is not considered safe for drinking due to the high impact of contamination and pollution. There for it is advisable to first treat the water pumped from tube wells into a central treatment plant before it is sent to the end user.
All of the above factors play and important role in determining the cost benefit analysis.

For one facility how many households will it serve?
Upto 250 individuals (drinking, washing, bathing). Water for animals is separate.

The depth of groundwater varies from place to place and is best if determined locally from the local municipality.

Spam
Photo of pallab de
Team

 sorry for little late response as i was out in field in remote areas.
Constructions of submersible pumps are done by many pump manufacturing businesses in India. This can be purchased off the shelf depending on the specification required as may be determined by the following:
1. Depth of water table in the area,
2. Height of the overhead tank,
3. Distance of the end user of water from overhead tank,

How much is cost of water reduced per household.
It needs to be noted here that safe water management by the community is of prime importance. Prior to installation of submersible pumps, functional water committees needs to be in place for determining the end users fees which also acts as a corpus for maintenance. It is to be note that without formation of water committees this initiative may be failure. Secondly, the local municipality should be a stakeholder in the entire process as groundwater is being used and their permission is required for installation of submersible pumps in any bore well.
The location and depth of tubewellsmust be surveyed and integrated with diarrhea and other waterborne disease and other data in a geographic information system. A proxy for tubewell access needs to be developed initially by calculating the local density of tubewells around households. Other issues of importance in water development programmes are wealth, adult female education, flood control, population density and the children ages are to be considered as potential confounders.
Increased access to tubewells is associated with a lower risk of childhood diarrhea. Intermediate- depth wells are associated with more childhood diarrhea compared to shallower or deeper wells. These findings may have implications for on-going efforts to reduce exposure to elevated levels of arsenic contained in groundwater that is pumped from shallow tubewells in most suburban municipalities in West Bengal. It is also very important that groundwater in and around Kolkata is not considered safe for drinking due to the high impact of contamination and pollution. There for it is advisable to first treat the water pumped from tube wells into a central treatment plant before it is sent to the end user.
All of the above factors play and important role in determining the cost benefit analysis.

For one facility how many households will it serve?
Upto 250 individuals (drinking, washing, bathing). Water for animals is separate.

The depth of groundwater varies from place to place and is best if determined locally from the local municipality.

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