Sustainable Drinking Water Supply in the Sundarbans


Drinking water scarcity in the Sundarbans

There is a severe drinking water crisis in most parts of the Sundarbans, the deltaic region south of Kolkata in India. Although the Sundarbans is replete with rivers, the river water is largely saline or brackish due to tidal action and proximity to the Bay of Bengal and cannot be used for drinking. Groundwater, usually accessed through tube wells, is seen as the safest water source of drinking water. Unfortunately, in many parts of the Sundarbans locating saline-free aquifers can be a huge challenge and even if identified tapping 300 meter deep aquifers requires substantial investment and knowhow.
The situation is further aggravated by the population growth, which leads to an increasing demand of drinking water. Often the only ‘solution’ to this menace is the unsustainable practice of buying expensive bottled water. Otherwise, unsafe water sources posing risk for the health of their consumers are being used by the local population.
In the area of Hingalgunj, which is situated on the Indian side in the border region to Bangladesh, a similar situation prevails. Out of despair, locals have been tapping the water resources of aquifers through tube-wells of around 300 m depth, which is an expensive and unstable venture since tube-wells either runs dry in summer or the water becomes extremely saline and not fit for drinking purposes. In these situation a pipeline to a nearby village has been installed. However, this is not a sustainable solution in the long run.

A solution

In this situation, a solution for smart and sustainable drinking water management is required to give access to safe and affordable drinking water. Portable Aqua Unit for Lifesaving (PAUL) is a gravity based low-pressure ultra filtration unit for decentralized water supply developed by Prof. Franz-Bernd Frechen at Department of Sanitary and Environmental Engineering, University of Kassel. Germany.

As pilot, two of these filters have been set up as permanent stations in Hingalgunj by Soceo’s local partner organisation Paschim Sridharkati Janakalyan Sangha (PSJS). The filter units will be run by local self-help-groups in an entrepreneurial manner to ensure long-term maintenance and thereby sustainability.
The two PAUL filters have been funded by Stiftung Deutscher Lions and their permanent setting-up by ChildFund Deutschland.