Palichapada WATER Issue
Palichapada addresses it's water woes using community resources and local leadership
Wednesday, June 8, 2016
Water, Water Everywhere
Water, Water Everywhere
The most striking image as we drive down the long road to Palichapada are the huge water pipes running on both sides of the road supplying water from the lakes of Shahapur taluka of Thane district to Mumbai. Yet, if we think that the communities living in the area are blessed with good quality water at their door step, we cannot be more wrong. Water is a major issue in the villages of Shahapur including Palichapada. The desperation and frustration of the people was apparent during the micro-planning process*. The village had three sources of water which were grossly inadequate – a leak in a big water supply pipe, a well near another village and a half constructed well. The well was dug by the villagers with their own contribution of money and labor a few years back and is half finished. The water is not good enough for drinking and there is no wall around the well, which limits its usage as there is a fear of women, children and cattle falling into it. The villagers made a number of attempts to appeal to the Panchayat members but to no avail.
On the last day of the Micro-planning process at the community meeting** the issue of drinking water was discussed at length along with two more issues viz., use of NRHM funds, re-laying of the electric poles. Dinesh Bhoye, Ganesh Bhoye, Santosh Bhoye and Lata Gawli came forward to work on the issue and formed a committee. They were clueless about how to go about it. Population First’s AMCHI (Action for Mobilisation of Community Health Initiatives)*** team guided them to their Gram Panchayat which is a group gram panchayat of Taharpur-Vedvahal-Bhavarsepada villages and padas around them including Palichapada. There was no positive response from the Sarpanch who denied the very existence of the well. A written application was then given to the gram panchayat asking to grant funds for repairing the well and laying the pipelines, quoting the provisions under the Panchayats Extension to Scheduled Areas Act, 1996 (PESA). This forced the Panchayat to pass a resolution in the subsequent gram sabha called on the 26th of March 2016 and grant an amount of INR 4 lacs. Out of this 30% was to go for school building repairs and the rest for work on the well. It was soon realized that the money was not sufficient for deepening the well, building the wall around the well, installing two sintex tanks as well as laying pipeline to pump water to the homes. This is when the community came together and decided to work under National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and donate the wages so earned for getting water into the village.
Though it looked like the issue was sorted, there were many other issues which required the community to come together and find collective solutions. While the work on the well was in progress the panchayat’s road construction scheme had also been sanctioned and the contractors had already dumped the material and were about to start the road laying work. It was realized by the community members that if the road is constructed it would be difficult to lay the pipe line. They had also realized that an electric pole was there bang in the centre of the road with live wires going over their houses. There was a need to shift the pole and get more poles erected to meet the requirements of the village. Once again the negotiations with the panchayat started. With guidance from AMCHI team an application was submitted to the Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB) for shifting the pole and getting more poles. With the NREGS wages the committee purchased pipes, motor pump, two Sintex tanks and material for construction of protection wall around the well.
The initiative and the leadership of the committee were apparent once again when they negotiated with a farm house owner who approached them for water. They had agreed to share the water on the condition that he should pay the complete water bill of the village and also take responsibility of maintaining the tanks and the motor.
The community attributes the success of their effort this time to the fact that they had approached the authorities equipped with the knowledge of the schemes under PESA and were able to ask for specific grants. It also helped as the whole community was involved in the decision making and supported the committee members. It had also earned them the respect of the authorities who acted on their demands immediately. It is also important to note that for the first time Priyanka and her husband Dinesh Bhoye won the Gram Panchayat election.
The story of Palichapada, a remote tribal village, illustrates that by mobilizing communities to participate actively in village development activities one could build bridges between government and people. By building their leadership skills, creating effective teams and providing knowledge and understanding of government schemes one could empower the rural communities – particularly women and youth to drive the development initiatives in villages. As we often say there are enough resources. What is lacking is people’s ownership and participation in development initiatives leading to corruption and inefficiency in programme implementation. Palichapada offers a ray of hope to many such village communities languishing in ignorance, apathy and despondency.
* Micro-planning is an intense and participatory process of assessing, analyzing and preparing action plan to address the development issues of the community. Based on Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) philosophy and tools, the process is the foundation of the future work to be facilitated by Population First (PF) in the communities. The process helps build a rapport of PF team with the communitites and motivate them to take action on their selected development issues. The information and skills learnt by the communities in the process are used by them time after time to bring about the desired change.
** A Community Meeting is held on the last day of the five-day micro-planning process where the findings of the process are shared with the people, high lighting the social development issues that need attention. The community members then select the issues that they wish to work on and prepare an action plan to addrress those issues.
*** AMCHI (Action for Mobilization of Community Health Initiatives) is a community empowerment program of Population First that aims to mobilise people of villages in Shahapur taluka of Thane district to be the drivers of social change and development in their villages. The focus is on creating awareness among people particularly women and youth about their entitlements, rights and responsibilities with regard to accessing quality services – be it from the schools, anganwadi centres, health institutions or panchayats. Simultaneously there is an effort to motivates the government health service providers through innovative training programmes to perform better and become change agents. Besides, AMCHI also works on economic empowerment of women through a livelihood initiative involving production and marketing of vermi-compost. AMCHIs interventions aim at overall well being and empowerment of women by improving sanitation, hygiene, maternal and child health, reproductive & sexual health of adolescents and financial status of women in the communities.