For nearly three years now, drinking in Saphale village has meant dumping chlorine tablets into it first.
Lack of maintenance and unpaid power bills had ensured the village’s only filtration plant, run by the state irrigation department’s Maharashtra Jeevan Pradhikaran, shut down in 2011.
As a water crisis loomed large, help came to the village, located 90 km from Mumbai in Palghar district, in the form of an NGO in Virar which came forward with a proposal to install a reverse osmosis (RO) water purification plant.
Saphale gram panchayat sarpanch Neelam Jadhav said, “Since 2011, we have been drinking contaminated water as the MJP-run filtration plant has not been functional. Viva Charitable Trust in Virar heard of our plight and decided to install an RO filtration plant at Gerokaohal in Saphale, where a three-lakh litre capacity tank has already been constructed by MJP.”
To supply water to the purification plant, the gram panchayat approached MJP for permission to access the dam at Rodkhad, maintained by the Palghar Zilla Parishad. “Water from the dam will be pumped to the overhead tank at Gerokaohal, where we have installed the RO plant as well,” said deputy sarpanch Rajesh Mhatre.
The filtration plant is being entirely funded by Viva. “The project will cost Rs 25 lakh and the infrastructure is being provided by Lower Parel based firm Superklean. Central government rules state that an individual needs around 70 litres of water per day, of which only three litres are meant for drinking. Once the plant gets going, a family of four can purchase a 20-litre jar of filtered drinking water for just Rs 7. Those with BPL ration cards can get the same free of cost,” Mhatre added.
The project will directly benefit around 25,000 people living in Saphale, Kardal and Makane villages, he said. “Approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is awaited for the plant, and we hope to start the project on February 15 although we have received a tentative sanction to construct the plant,” said Mhatre.
A small laboratory has also been set up within the premises to take samples from the plant and get it tested at any government approved laboratory for potability. “We have named the project ‘Prakruti’. We will also provide free refills in clean plastic jars once the individual returns the used ones. The jars will be cleaned before being refilled,” said Sunil Gond, a gram panchayat member.
Rajesh Padhye, junior engineer with PWD’s water supply department in Palghar, said the MJP filtration plant has been non-functional since 2011 after MSEB disconnected power and other maintenance issues. “The plant needs Rs 60 lakh to be revived, which is not available with the government due to budgetary reasons,” Padhye said.