Academic journal article Journal of Health Population and Nutrition

A Community-Based Bacteriological Study of Quality of Drinking-Water and Its Feedback to a Rural Community in Western Maharashtra, India

Academic journal article Journal of Health Population and Nutrition

A Community-Based Bacteriological Study of Quality of Drinking-Water and Its Feedback to a Rural Community in Western Maharashtra, India

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

A longitudinal study of the bacteriological quality of rural water supplies was undertaken for a movement towards self-help against diseases, such as diarrhoea, and improved water management through increased community participation. Three hundred and thirteen water samples from different sources, such as well, tank, community standpost, handpumps, percolation lakes, and streams, and from households were collected from six villages in Maharashtra, India, over a one-year period. Overall, 49.8% of the 313 samples were polluted, whereas 45.9% of the samples from piped water supply were polluted. The quality of groundwater was generally good compared to open wells. Irregular and/or inadequate treatment of water, lack of drainage systems, and domestic washing near the wells led to deterioration in the quality of water. No major diarrhoeal epidemics were recorded during the study, although a few sporadic cases were noted during the rainy season. As a result of a continuous feedback of bacteriological findings to the community, perceptions of the people changed with time. An increased awareness was observed through active participation of the people cutting across age-groups and different socioeconomic strata of the society in village activities.

Key words: Community participation; Diarrhoea; Drinking-water; Interventions; Longitudinal studies; Water pollution; Water supply; India

INTRODUCTION

It is well-appreciated that many communities in developing countries face severe public-health problems relating to drinking-water (1). The supply of safe water is important to protect the health of the community people (2). Scarcity and pollution of water--both microbial and chemical--are major problems faced by rural population in several parts of India (3,4). Lack of sanitation is detrimental to water potability concentrating pathogenic organisms. Diarrhoea is the most common infectious disease worldwide (5), and gastrointestinal infections kill 1.8 million people globally each year, mostly children in developing countries (6). While urban industrial centres in such areas continue to receive water supplies from rural lakes and water sources by virtue of their economic status, rural communities with no traditional base of harvesting and conservation of water are left in the lap of migration and/or destitution.

The Parinche valley in Purandar block of interior Western Maharashtra, India, is one such area where the above conditions prevail. Average annual rainfall in this area has receded by approximately 50% in the last four years.

The approach in this study was grounded in the belief that amelioration of this situation will ultimately rest with the efforts of the local community. Given the iniquitous water distribution and lack of community control of this vital natural resource, understanding of issues relating to both quality and quantity of water becomes necessary (7). One way of generating community focus on issues concerning drinking-water comprises generating and sharing of bacteriological information at multiple points of supply/distribution, storage, and use. The concurrent linkage of sporadic epidemics of diarrhoea occurring in an area to quality and availability of water changes the perceptions of the people about the risk of diarrhoeal disease (8). Thus, a feedback on bacteriological quality of water to the community was an intrinsic part of this study for engendering a two-way partnership between external outputs and internal processes of the community. Transfer of technological knowledge and its social advocacy were the expected outputs.

A catalytic presence of female health and development workers in the valley, trained by Foundation for Research in Community Health (FRCH), Pune, in preventive, promotive and curative health, facilitated the above-mentioned approach (9). Their presence permitted a close follow-up and observation of participating households. …

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