As a partner in the World Nomads Footprints program and thanks to the generosity of the travelling community PEAK was able to undertake a potable water/hygiene education project in the village of Khati, Kumaon Himalaya. This project enabled the provision of hand washing facilities (sanitation), a potable water supply and appropriate education on hygiene to over 70 children. Access to potable water is also promoted by PEAK to the Indian national and international trekking fraternity to refill water bottles where appropriate to help minimise plastic waste in the Pindari Valley.
DELIVERY & CONSTRUCTION
There was a perception held by only a few villagers that the water from the roof was 'unfit' for drinking which led to initial resistance to rainwater collection. However, after discussing the merits of rainwater to those who where unsure and explaining the how/why of tank installation the concerns dissolved and the project was wholeheartedly endorsed.
The journey of the tanks and equipment to undertake the project was arduous with the goods being loaded onto a jeep in Almora (the regions largest service centre) and delivered to the end of the road at Song. They were then transferred onto mules bound for Khati. However, the tanks and pipes were too cumbersome to fit on a mule and therefore were headloaded to the final destination. This witnessed a slow start to the project with Kundun belatedly headloading in the final 'tanki' (500 litre tanks) in fresh snow.
Himalayan winter conditions delayed project progress in a myriad of ways from 'tanki' delivery to frozen ground rendering it impossible for laying foundations and pipes! However, a relatively low snowfall year in conjunction with a community work day, willing workers and an exceptionally mild spring enabled the swift completion of the project once the ground defrosted.
The Khati Panchayat (Council) kindly donated the local hand quarried stone for the project. The town's women held a community work day and in spirited fashion ensured that the stone was delivered from the river bed to our doorstep (approximately a 1 km journey and a tough day's work) in a move that both touched and surprised us.
The project entailed the renovation of the original dilapidated bathroom/toilet building, construction of stone paths and tank pads, tank installation (2x 500 litre) and plumbing for running water.
Workers provided us with some challenging moments as we grappled with employees who work on 'local time' leaving us to question our own Protestant work ethic, this required us to utilise two key words called 'patience' & 'perseverance' and accept that things do happen... eventually!!
PEAK's Environment Centre windows have bars that liken the building to a jail. Scott in a moment of clarity decided that some of the bars simply 'had to go', with the use of a trusty hacksaw, a sufficient supply of blades and a few expletives they were removed and marched down town to Danni Ram's small 'forging room' where Danni used his skills to provide us with carefully crafted gutter brackets that were used to hold the roof guttering in place to collect rainwater for the tanks.
From recycled window bars to timber for door frames and a gamut of goods in between, this ethic of resource re-use was employed throughout the project and is indicative of the ingenuity employed when there is no local hardware store!
The pipes for the plumbing were threaded with a pipe-dye and took many willing workers to make it all possible. In fact, we had no shortage of helpers for all aspects of the project and the whole village regularly came to visit the work site watching the project unfold through to completion. And everyone was impressed with the final touches of green paint on the window and door frames, the dolphin/crocodile bathroom door handles and equine towel hanger, not to mention water that flows from a tap!
As a vital part of the potable water project, hygiene education formed a component of the teaching year. As the UNICEF website on Water & Sanitation states:
"Schools can also be a key factor in initiating change by helping to develop useful life shills on health and hygiene. Children are often eager to learn and willing to absorb new ideas..."
In the classroom we have been able to provide guidance on the development of skills and knowledge on clean water, conservation of a precious resource and hygiene education in a fun and activity based framework.
Through a participatory approach it has been possible to develop co-operative learning through song and dance, hands on activities, art workshops and the utilisation of open and constructive dialogue on the merits of hygiene in everyday life. This in turn appears (in the initial stages) to be a successful melange with positive educational outcomes for the children involved, with the knowledge base filtering to siblings outside the schooling system. It is envisaged in the long run that there will be a positive impact within the home/village environment for the betterment of community health.
Even on a 'no school day' the children love to come and wash their hands and have a drink from the newly installed tank. That childhood song 'Here we go round the mulberry bush' (which also appears in Uttarakhand school text books) with its refrain of 'this is the way we wash our hands' plus some ad-libbed lines was hugely popular! As are art classes based on hygiene issues, soap bars, hand towels, baby bucket for water, stainless steel drinking cups. Not to mention the endless novelty of turning the tank taps 'on and off' which we were able to turn to an advantage to raise the issue of water conservation!
THE ISSUE OF WATER
The Kumaon Himalaya is in a high rainfall zone, however locals have noted that there is an extension of dry spells that are proving problematic and leading depleted water resources at certain times of the year. The issue of water has recently become just as topical in the mountains as anywhere else on the globe.
Since the project inception the 'balwari' (pre-school) children had moved premises, however we are still able to provide potable water/hygiene education to over 70 children at BK's School. We had discussions and exercises for both genders to motivate the children to use the bathroom and on how/why to maintain facilities. And 'practical demonstrations' to curb the tendency for half the class having a 'communal pee' (or worse!) at the same time - which was previously ending up everywhere else but down the S-bend!
Staff at PEAK would like to extend their profound thankyou to the Khati Panchayat (Council) and the local community whose unending support, enthusiasm and active participation made the project both a reality and a huge success.
What's next for this project?
The hygiene education component to this project is ongoing. PEAK will continue with class room activities relating to water use and the importance of hygiene in conjunction with expanding community awareness on these issues.
PEAK's Environmental Centre actively promotes the refilling of water bottles as a viable alternative to the purchase of plastic bottles to both the Indian national and international trekking fraternity. The inclusion of the Khati into the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve highlights the importance on community/visitor information on the reduction of rubbish in the region.
Can I visit this project?
If you are contemplating a visit please 'drop a line' to PEAK:
peak.himalaya [at] yahoo.com.au
Project Report : Bonnie Flynn and Scott Bartholomew
Posted: 4 July, 2008
The Project will cover:
The project will cover the purchase and installation of a rain water tank to provide clean water, taps for hand washing and a drinking water tap in conjunction with basic hygiene education for the school children of Khati. The provision of ‘clean’ water also enables a bottle refilling point for trekkers. Project costs will not only include materials but provide for local labour.
Why is the project required?
The project will have a dual purpose:
- First is to improve overall hygiene and ultimately the health of ‘balwari’ (pre school) and Class 1-5 children who attend classes in an ex-government building that at present has no access to a water source. There are over one hundred children who currently use a ‘hole in the ground’ toilet with no facilities for flushing/hand washing and/or access to drinking water.
- Secondly, the installation of a rain water tank provides a water point to enable trekkers/tourists accommodated in Khati to refill their water bottles with clean water.
Increased rubbish loadings in the Kumaon Himalaya are partly due to tourists/trekkers consuming water in plastic water bottles. Khati reached ‘plastic saturation point’ in April 2006 – when the locals no longer had alternative uses for bottles! It has been noted that trekkers are happy to refill bottles where-ever possible provided they are ‘happy’ with the water source. There are no facilities to recycle plastic.
Khati has ample rainfall but no rain water collection point. Where stream water is utilised there are no constraints on livestock access which can lead to possible contamination of the potable water source.
The need for this project was identified by staff members of PEAK and in consultation with the local community.
- The provision of a rain water tank in conjunction with a hygiene educational component will not only benefit the children of Khati but improve community health overall.
- The ability for trekkers to refill their water bottles will help reduce the rising plastic refuse which is problematic in the region.
Background about the Kumaon Himalaya region
The ‘Pahari’ (people of the mountains) villagers of Khati and surrounds rely predominantly upon subsistence agriculture supplemented by seasonal employment for household needs. Lack of basic health care facilities remains vexing and problematic. Unemployment and underemployment are one of the disconcerting issues faced by the youth of the village.
Khati is situated in the Kumaon Himalaya at the confluence of three trekking routes: Pindari, Kafni and Sunderdhunga glaciers. This geographically beautiful region is witnessing an increase of Indian national and international tourist/trekkers seeking adventure based activities This has largely been due to increased security threats and travel warnings against trekking in the more traditional alpine routes of Kashmir and especially neighbouring Nepal and an increase in the Indian middle class seeking outdoor experiences.
Can I visit this project?
Yes – if you are interested in trekking and community development come and visit. Please contact us first and we can hatch a plan!