An Adivasi village learns to monitor water quality


By Chandrika Patnaik

22 March 2023

Adivasi families learn water quality management to ensure safe drinking water for their communities.

Sanju Jani shows the result of the bacteria test.

Photograph by Prasanta Kumar Naik

Biluamara village falls under Ganjam district’s Jagannathprasad block. It is home to 35 Adivasi families.

In 2006, each household in the village received a piped-water supply for the toilet, bathroom, and kitchen. This arrangement worked well for village women who spent hours fetching water daily. However, the village saw a sudden spurt in water-borne diseases among children and adults.

The village has a VISP called a ‘water quality cadre’ who’s responsible for monitoring the water quality, and facilitating the rectification of issues found with support from VDC.

Sanju Jani, 26, the water quality cadre in question, lives with her parents and two brothers in Biluamara village. Sanju has passed Class 12 and works with Van Surakshya Samiti’s forest department. As a Poshan Mitra, she is responsible for testing the quality of all drinking water sources.

Sanju took on the challenge despite being unsure at first. She says, “Although I own a smartphone, I was not comfortable filling out online forms and uploading information to the mWater app. Due to my lack of technology expertise, I was unsure how to handle the role.”

Water testing involves several aspects such as water quality management, uploading the results of water tests and sanitary surveys to the mWater app, and testing water samples collected from water sources using Field Testing Kits (FTKs).

In Biluamara, FTKs, like bacteria, nitrate, and fluoride test kits, were provided to Sanju. Every year, pre-monsoon and post-monsoon water quality testing are conducted. The experience is that women can do a better job given their adequate training and support system.

In April 2022, Sanju became a trained Poshan Mitra in the Gram Vikas programme to ensure access to safe water free of bacteria, nitrates, and other particulate matter. She is one of the 84 Poshan Mitras in the Ganjam district of Odisha, among whom 24 are women.

In training, she learned about the testing protocol and using field testing kits (FTKs) to test water quality from the source, main pipeline, and household. The sample water collected revealed bacteria contamination.

Soon a sanitary survey took place in Biluamara. It revealed damage in the pipeline, resulting in water contamination. Sanju then organised a meeting on awareness of water quality management based on the survey results.

While the residents learned about the health risks of contaminated water and water-borne diseases, Sanju convinced the VDC members to repair the pipeline and clean the water tank.

Several meetings were held to make the village residents aware of water quality and hygiene practices. Sanju persuaded all the 35 families residing in the village to contribute to repairing the damaged pipeline and cleaning the overhead water tank.

Water quality surveillance and management is a part of the Water Secure Gram Panchayat (WSGP) Programme. The programme aims to enable community-led water resource management and resilient, sustainable, and gender-equitable institutions contributing to improved health and economic outcomes for rural households.

The Gram Panchayat, as a federation of its constituent habitations, is the unit of implementation. The programme envisages bringing together all households in the habitations within a Gram Panchayat, to effectively manage their water resources and build the capacities of the local governance system to facilitate this.

“We were able to solve the water contamination problem in our village. At first, we did not believe Sanju when she spoke to us about the contamination of the drinking water with bacteria. However, with the water pipeline repair, the problem is now completely solved,” says Bijay Jani, 55, a farmer and a village committee member of Biluamara village.

The solid waste segregation at the household level.

Photograph by Prasanta Kumar Naik


Baccha Panna, Thematic Coordinator in Sanitation and Health, and Prasanta Kumar Naik, a Thematic Coordinator in Planning Monitoring Documentation and Communication, helped with data collection for the story. Mark Lancy Sebastian edited the story.


Chandrika Patnaik leads content production within the Communications team in Gram Vikas.


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