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Water ATM: Residents of 2 Solapur villages pool in Rs 12 lakh for clean drinking water

Built and installed at a cost of Rs 12 lakh, the entire project was funded by villagers from Bavkarwadi and Chapalgaon, where a population of 700 and 8,000 people resides, respectively.

A villager carries a water can after filling it at the ATM in Bavkarwadi village. Nirmal Harindran A villager carries a water can after filling it at the ATM in Bavkarwadi village. Nirmal Harindran

Shivaji Dattatray, 16, has a task every afternoon, for two months now. With a bright red can dangling in one hand, he runs — to fill water using his plain white ATM card that he places gingerly in his pants pocket. He presses his smart card against the crude electronic reader, and the balance reads Rs 158 today. With Rs 6 debited, he fills 18 litre water in two minutes. The stock will last a day for his family of seven. “It is of more value than other ATMs,” he smiles as he balances the water can. In Bavkarwadi and Chapalgaon, 30 km from Solapur, the drought and receding water levels have exposed the local population to muddy drinking water left in lower reaches. Poor monsoons for three years dried the local well about six months ago. Villagers were forced to drink impure water from nearby Kurnur dam until they all decided to pool in money and get themselves their own water ATM, a concept that has grown popular recently in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and parts of Maharashtra.

Built and installed at a cost of Rs 12 lakh, the entire project was funded by villagers from Bavkarwadi and Chapalgaon, where a population of 700 and 8,000 people resides, respectively. With poor government response and drinking water becoming a scarce resource, the water ATM constructed in three months now provides clean drinking water.

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“I have three young children. They all fell ill and vomited for two days when they drank water from the dam after the well dried up. The sarpanch told us it is due to poor drinking water,” says Babasaheb Mane, 40, who owns a grocery store in Bavkarwadi. His contribution for the water ATM was Rs 500.

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Dr K G Utage, the local doctor, used to receive at least 25 cases every day of typhoid, cholera, e-coli, loose motion or vomiting from the two villages. “The most affected by drinking water are paediatric cases and pregnant women,” he said. His wife Shobha Utage, also Bavkarwadi’s sarpanch, then suggested to install a water ATM. “The idea came a year ago. It only got implemented after wells here dried up leaving us with no options,” said Utage. The water ATM consists of a huge tanker that is fed by Kurnur dam’s water and filters 5,000 liters in an hour, passing the water into two polygas pressure gas cylinders. The water then goes into the cooling tank which takes another three hours to cool 1,000 liters. For every liter that is fed into the reverse osmosis system, more than 50 per cent comes out as waste, which the villagers use for washing clothes.

“We now plan to plant trees in this area to utilise waste water,” says Pandurao Chauhan, manager of the water ATM. Around 50 villagers in Bavkarwadi have purchased the water ATM card, which they regularly recharge. The blank white card can be recharged with any amount, says Chauhan, and with each swipe, Rs 6 is deducted.

Mane visit the ATM at 6 am every morning to get 20 litres. “It lasts us a day,” he says. A daily rickshaw, with water cans filled from the ATM, drives to Chapalgaon to sell water at Rs 10 for 20 litres to villagers there. “Drinking water outside costs us much more. Here, we are getting clean water at such a less price,” says Gauri Shankar Dodyal, a resident of Chapalgaon. The building constructed to house the Water ATM cost Rs 5 lakh and installation of the plant another Rs 7 lakh. To accumulate the huge sum, the gram panchayat pooled in Rs 6 lakh, with sarpanch Shobha Utage, former sarpanch Umesh Patil and another member Sitaram Pandarkaute donating Rs 2 lakh each. Wealthier land owners in the village agreed to pay a larger amount than other villagers to reach the amount of Rs 12 lakh.

However, while the villages close to the dam still have water to quench their thirst, they are wary. “The wells drying up is a sign. We are saving each drop,” says Dodyal.

First published on: 12-05-2016 at 01:14 IST
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