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Monday, 8 September 2008

Community-managed water initiative


Since 2006, with an initial grant from the Jersey Overseas Aid Commission, Homeless International has been able to support the Indian Alliance in piloting a community-managed water initiative in the town of Kolar Gold Field in the State of Karnataka, India. The scheme involves the design, building and management of a water pumping system by slum dwellers themselves.

Once one of the biggest mines in the world, the Kolar Gold Field mine closed in 2001 due to depleted deposits and inefficient extraction. As a result, unemployment and poverty is rife among the residents of the area, with the worst affected being the slum areas, where over 70,000 poor people live. The mining company used to provide water to the slum settlements but with the closure of the mine, the service was cut off. Water from the Karnataka City Water Supply Board is only being supplied once every 10 to 15 days, and residents have therefore been forced to buy water from passing tankers, which is costly.

The water initiative, which is expected to supply safe drinking water to over 25,000 people when complete, is also helping to create jobs for community members who are being employed to manage and maintain it. The costs of maintenance and management are being covered by small contributions from each family in the community, which amount to much less than they currently pay for water supplied privately from the passing tankers. The management and organisational requirements of the scheme are also building the community’s confidence and capacity and will stand them in good stead to address other challenges that they face, such as limited sanitation facilities.

So far, two borewells have been sunk in the Nagavaram Valley area and another in a settlement known as Gilbert’s Area. These wells are being connected by pipes to an existing small pumping station, which has been renovated. A more powerful water pump has been installed in another area of Kolar Gold Field to transfer water to a larger storage tank where the water is purified and then supplied to the surrounding slum settlements.

The municipal authorities in Kolar Gold Field, whilst not in a position to solve the problem of water supply themselves due to lack of resources, are fully supportive of this community-driven initiative. Using this project to set a precedent, the Indian Alliance hopes to encourage the municipal authorities to draw down State-level funds for similar schemes in the future.

Report by Homeless International