Access to Safe Water

Madanpur is a severely arsenic affected village in the Bhagabangola -II block of Murshidabad district of West Bengal. The fact that the area is arsenic prone is a known fact since many years with government agencies periodically sealing/marking hand pumps as dangerous. However not much has been done in terms of solutions, though there has been government projects to supply water to Madanpur and some other village that area similarly affected, the progress has been exceedingly slow.

SKMUK, an AID partner, working with focus on women empowerment in the area had first flagged the plight of the people of Madanpur and expressed the urgent need to do something to better the access to safe water in the area. Following this, AID volunteers (from Boston and Kolkata) had visited the locality to discuss the possibility of work on this issue and other work that SKMUK was already undertaking in partnership with AID (RTI related).

Sometime in 2015, it was agreed between SKMUK and AID team that active work needs to be done on safe water in the area and accordingly an impromptu fund raising was done to start the campaigns aimed at awareness building on easy processes (alum treatment) to diminish the arsenic content of water on the need for nutrition to keep arsenic affliction at bay. To start with women groups were formed and these groups were then targeted as collective for the campaigns. The initial efforts from SKMUK team, which involved women from the Madanpur locality, has started to show results. Following the active campaigning and distribution of seeds, Many families in Madanpur have started drinking alum treated water. Many of the women have also successfully reared nutrition gardens from the seeds distributed.

In a recent visit by AID Kolkata volunteers, encouraging feedback was received from the people of Madanpur. Other than speaking to the people in Madanpur village regarding their perspective, needs and issues, some water samples were tested at an arsenic testing facility. The tests were done for two reasons, firstly, to understand, from random water samples from different hand pumps in Madanpur ,how severe the arsenic contamination was, and secondly, whether or not the alum treatment was having any impact on bringing down arsenic levels in the water. While the tests showed promise a lot more tests need to be done to effectively understand the problem and to come out with long term easy and sustainable solutions for the people of Madanpur. Concomitantly it is extremely important that the campaign on nutrition is continued with a higher intensity and greater reachout and combine that with trainings for the women on sustainable kitchen gardening. It is also important to pressurize the government to expedite the work on reaching treated supply water to Madanpur and other villages on the locality.