About Megh Pyne Abhiyan
Megh Pyne Abhiyan’s (MPA) motivation is to construct a congenial social environment through sustainable technological innovations and adaptation of conventional wisdom in order to ensure a shared, sustainable and effective management of water. However, much beyond that, the wider belief is to stimulate collective action and accountability towards a ‘common good’ amongst the local habitants for grassroots cooperation, through
Developing community based practices for challenging the present trend of dependence on external sources and proposing an alternative approach of self-reliance
Instigating a behavioural change of rural communities with regards to common property resources and institutions, building self management as an attitude towards local problems.
Building a critical mass of human resources for dealing with the local problems and in executing need based interventions while aiming at innovations
MPA initiated its functioning in north Bihar after developing an understanding about access to safe drinking water during floods. The initial intervention in north Bihar was mainly conceptualized around developing processes and techniques for accessing safe drinking water locally during floods. Temporary and decentralized rainwater harvesting (RWH) was promoted as options. As a natural progression, MPA started identifying the problems plaguing drinking water post flood as well. MPA first undertook water testing to enhance the understanding about the quality of groundwater and other water sources to be followed by its dissemination across 22 panchayats in five districts of north Bihar in collaboration with its partner NGOs – Gramyasheel, Supaul district; Kosi Seva Sadan, Saharsa district; Samta, Khagaria district; Goghardiha Prakhand Swarajya Vikas Sangh, Madhubani district; and Water Action, Pashchim Champaran district. The water testing results indicated that most of the villages in the identified panchayats had contaminated groundwater. MPA thus worked on developing processes, strategies, arguments, capacities and technologies (such as matka filters, rainwater storage, dug wells) with the aim of strengthening its resolve for identifying and executing solutions to aid in providing safe and sustainable drinking water both during floods and during the dry periods.
Another issue plaguing the flood prone areas of north Bihar is the complete lack of sanitation facilities and widespread open defecation. As groundwater forms the primary source of drinking water, open defecation and unscientific designs of sanitation schemes have had a direct impact on the quality of drinking water, which prompted MPA to work on and customize the concept of ‘phaydemand shauchalay’ (Ecological Sanitation – Ecosan) for the flood prone areas and to address the scientific as well as the social issues concerning with the open defecation practices.
About North Bihar
North Bihar has a peculiar typology of groundwater setting. It is a part of the great Indo – Gangetic plains, made up of sequences of loose unconsolidated sediments up to thousands of meters in thickness, spread across regional expanses of land. Alluvial settings provide a very complex set of characteristics for groundwater studies. The storage capacities of such settings are exponentially higher than that of hard rock regions. High storage and high precipitation in North Bihar (approximately 1300 mm) as well as the precipitation in the catchments of the Himalayan rivers in Nepal ensure that this region is not just water abundant but persistently flood prone, with perennial surface water flow and shallow groundwater tables.
According to Government of Bihar’s estimate of 2013, 83.3 per cent of the total habitation in Bihar are covered with improved drinking water source. As per the National Rural Drinking Water Program’s (NRDWP) information pertaining to rural drinking water supply in Bihar, 80 per cent of the sources developed under the scheme are based on groundwater tapped by handpumps or bore wells (Data upto October 18, 2012). Public water supply schemes (PWSS) form a meagre 4 per cent of the total habitations covered under the NRDWP; however it is unclear whether all these PWSS are surface water only. In addition, Iron and Arsenic contamination is widespread but the distribution is poorly understood, and biological contamination is omnipresent. Unconfirmed reports of over exploitation and falling water tables in certain regions of north Bihar need to be assessed to understand the status of groundwater from a quantity perspective.
Unhygienic and unscientific sanitation practices and in many cases the complete lack of sanitation facilities combined with shallow groundwater tables and unscientific construction designs of the handpumps’ headworks are some of the factors causing widespread biological contamination of groundwater which is presently the only source of drinking water. The dynamics of floods only compound the situation further. The effects of poor sanitation facilities are not limited to contamination of groundwater but also have a serious impact on the social character of the rural populace, especially women, elderly and children. In Bihar, 26.5 per cent of rural household have sanitation facility as per census 2011.