With the installation of two reverse osmosis (RO) plants, shortage of clean drinking water has become a problem of the past for the residents of Orakkadu village who now receive clean water with the swipe of a smart card.

The RO plants worth Rs.9.7 lakhs each was implemented by the Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department under the Self Sufficiency Scheme (SSS). Under The SSS, the government facilitates the implementation of certain basic facilities in various villages. Two third of the expense involved in the installation of RO plants was paid by the government while the rest was paid by Canara Bank, which had adopted the village under its Gramodhaya Yojana.

Access to water

To receive water from any of the two RO ATM's, villagers are required to purchase a smart card for Rs.100, which can be then swiped at a counter at the RO plant to receive water at an inexpensive price of Rs.2 per 20 liters. "The residents only have to pay Rs.100 at the panchayat office, and a smart card will be issued to them as soon as possible which they can use to collect water. If the card runs out of money, they can recharge it like it’s done in mobile. The money received is kept aside to maintain the machines and to pay for the electricity used in running it" explained Vasanthi Basakaran, the panchayat president of Orakkadu.

The RO plant receives water from a bore well and stores it in an overhead tank which treats 2000 liters of water in an hour.

"There are almost 700 families in the village, and every one of them has applied for a smart card and uses the RO machine on a daily basis. At least 8000 liters of water is supplied through this system every day." Explained Ms.Baskar.

The history of water shortage in Orakkadu

Like many rural districts in India, Orakkadu, 45km away from Chennai, saw a shortage of clean water almost ten years ago when the groundwater turned saline, forcing the residents to purchase drinking water or fetch water either from Kosasthalaiyar river or Nerukundram, a neighboring village.

"Up until now, we received saline water the pipes in our houses. Some common pipes in the village received water from a nearby overhead tank, twice day, for an hour," said Ravi, a panchayat clerk.

"In order to not waste good water, we still wash our clothes and dishes in the saline water even though it can damage our clothes and plates.

But we no longer have to wait in long queues or walk long distance carrying pots of water. Neither do we have to use saline water to drink or cook our food," added Naumanni, a resident of Orakkadu. Residents are hoping that similar plans would help cities the government would look into similar solutions for other cities and villages as well.