NAVI MUMBAI: Borze, a tiny village in the water-starved Pen taluka of Raigad district, stopped waiting for the state government and their local politician of various hues to give them the much-needed clean water. Instead, the villagers recently tied up with a private company to set up an innovative “water ATM” that locals refer to as “ATW,” or any time water.
This is the first time in the district that a local gram panchayat has set up such a hi-tech gizmo and also distributed more than 400 electromagnetic ATW cards, which look like regular ATM swipe cards, used to get 20 litres of water for just Rs 10.
Malti Thakur, an elderly village woman who has never before used a regular ATM card to get cash, now proudly displays her ATW as she enthusiastically watches the dispenser pour out 20 litres of potable water.
“Earlier, the government supply of tap water was erratic and mostly bad, leading to various diseases. Over the years, even the rainfall has reduced and is rather unseasonal due to this ‘pariyavaran gondhal’ (environmental problems),” she said, matter of factly.
The much-referred-to international term for climate change—global warming —is often called “gondhal” (problem) of the “pariyavaran” (environment) by the villagers.
Mahendra Thakur, the newly elected village sarpanch, himself a civil engineer who proposed this water ATM, told TOI: “As we are all experiencing the effects of global warming in some way or the other, I felt that a technological solution was required to take care of the severe water shortage here. So, we started scouting for private companies to set up a water purification plant next to the village pond.”
Thakur added that the giant water purification plant was set up by the company, Mascot Water Solutions, at a cost of Rs 10 lakh, on the condition that they would charge Rs 10 per 20 litres of water dispensed. “Considering the popularity of this ATW, we are thinking of issuing more of the ATM cards to the villagers. Also, 20% of the revenue earned by the water company will be given back to the gram panchayat for other developmental works. So, this project is good for the private company as well as the villagers,” he said.
Chandrahas Gawand, director of Mascot Water Solutions, said, “During our site visit, we found that the water hardness in the village pond was on the lower side. This pond was earlier used by locals to wash their clothes, but now, it is used for this ATW purpose. Besides being the first such plant in the district, the term ATW has also been coined by the Borze gram panchayat.”
Villager C Patil (67) said, “Electricity came to our village first in 1962. However, this water ATM makes us even happier as clean drinking water is an absolute must.”
Kiran Paigude, Raigad deputy collector in-charge of water resources, pointed out that the villages of Pen taluka have been facing water scarcity since the past few years due to factors such as poor rainfall and insufficient reservoir levels.
“However, whenever we do get complaints, our officials try to fix the water problem,.” he said. It sometimes takes close to three years to get additional supplies to a particular area, though.
Meanwhile, Borze has also decided to set up solar power panels at the water purifying plant, so that they do not have to fully depend on the standard electricity supply. That would be another small step for the village in reducing its carbon footprints to minimize the “pariyavaran gondhal”.