75 years of people’s power: How these two villages in Chhattisgarh solved their grey water problem

Ghugwa and Patora villages in Durg district used household- and community-level soak pits to prevent waterlogging

By Sushmita Sengupta, Swati Bhatia
Published: Sunday 14 August 2022
Community-level soak pit in Patora village
Community-level soak pit in Patora village (Photo: Gram Panchayat, Patora, Durg) Community-level soak pit in Patora village (Photo: Gram Panchayat, Patora, Durg)

India marks 75 years of her independence August 15, 2022. In these 75 years, it has become a fully-functional democracy.

A democracy is all about the power of the people. Down To Earth celebrates the power of the people of India by presenting a collection of 10 villages and districts across India where people have worked to radically improve their lot through better solutions for drinking water and sanitation.

Patora and Ghughwa villages (both are also the Gram Panchayats) in Patan block, Durg district struggled with grey water management issues. Some households in these villages are directly connected to open drains.

Grey water from the drains used to flow into the village ponds and pollute the pond water. Communities who bathed in these ponds complained about foul smell and skin rashes.

Households and community water points in some places were not connected to the drain network. These households did not have proper bathing and washing places and as a result, water stagnated outside houses or at water points. Villagers raised concerns about the foul smell and mosquitoes.

The change

Durg has red sandy soil with high permeability. With technical help from WaterAid India, a non-profit with headquarters in the UK, both Patora and Ghughwa Gram Panchayats planned interventions that would suit their soil condition.

(Left) Household-level modified soak pit with a platform and silt chamber in Durg district (right) Community-level modified leach pit with nahani trap and silt chamber in Patora village (Photo: Swati Bhatia, CSE)

The agenda for the villages was to sort the problem of grey water flooding through different interventions at the household and community levels. The village Panchayat initially tried to solve the issue of grey water by developing a community-level grey water treatment plant in Patora village. The initiative was highly appreciated at the state level as it was a low cost system made with the involvement of the Gram Panchayat and communities.

It was realised, however, that to solve the problem of stagnation of wastewater in the villages, interventions at the household level would be a better option than developing community-level systems that were difficult to maintain.

Hence the village Panchayat now seeks to develop household leach pits while maintaining the community-level treatment plant at Patora village.

In Ghughwa village, however, as a portion of the grey water flowed to the lower reaches of the villages, community-level grey water management systems were planned. The drive for the construction of the leach pits in these villages started in 2020.

The Gram Panchayats are still continuing with this drive to cover 100 per cent of the households. Community-level interventions for the grey water management at the community level started in 2017 in Patora and in 2020 in Ghughwa village.

Construction of community-level leach pit in Patora village (Photo: Gram panchayat patora)

Household- and community-level soak pits in Ghughwa and Patora

Financial assistance from Standard Chartered Bank Foundation under Corporate Social Activity and cooperation from the communities in both the villages worked in managing grey water from households. WaterAid India provided technical support while labour and material support were provided by the beneficiaries themselves.

The Gram Panchayat along with WaterAid made beneficiaries aware about the need to manage grey water at the household level. Modified leach pits were suggested based on soil type. A honeycomb leach pit was constructed at each household.

The leach pit was lined with a 0.7–1 m layer of gravel to allow enough percolation time for better treatment of grey water. The leach pits were raised above the ground by approximately 0.3 m and closed with a concrete lid for the ease of cleaning and operation.

Closing the pits also ensured the safety of children playing around the pits. In place of honeycomb brick structures, readymade perforated concrete was used. Concrete rings — with perforations of size 65-75 mm throughout the effective depth on similar patterns as in honeycomb soak pits — of 1 m diameter and 1 m depth were also used. The perforations were planned such that there were four or five holes in a ring.

Canna indica growing in the constructed wetland used to treat grey water at the community level in Patora (Photo: Swati Bhatia, CSE)Before a leach pit is made, the water-generation point was given a nahani trap to prevent larger particles from escaping into the pit. After passing through the nahani trap, wastewater flows through the silt chamber where silt and other suspended particles can settle and grease and oil float as scum over the clear liquid in the silt chamber. The outlet pipe is made at a lower height than the inlet pipe. Eventually, water passes through the outlet pipe into the leach pit.

Similar structures were planned in community water points, with larger leach pits of size 2 m x 2 m. A gravel layer with thickness of 1-1.5 m is placed on all sides of the leach pits. The gravel layer covers the whole depth of the pit.

The community-level soak pits are made under Gram Panchayat funds (15th Finance Commission, Swachh Bharat Mission, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds). WaterAid India provides technical support.

Constructed wetlands: Patora

With the help of WaterAid India, Patora Gram Panchayat planned a constructed wetland for the village to manage grey water at the community level. Open drains were laid out in selective areas the village, connecting 190 households to carry grey water to lower reaches by the force of gravity.

Scheme of treatment at Patora village grey-water treatment plantInitially, untreated grey water flowed to the existing village pond, resulting in algal growth. Villagers complained about its ill effects. In 2017, the Gram Panchayat with technical handholding from WaterAid started constructing the grey water management system.

It was designed by WaterAid, India, and constructed by local labour and with locally available material. The Gram Panchayat provided monitoring support at all stages. Open drains connected to the larger drain that finally passes to the constructed wetland from where treated grey water passes to the pond.

Three parallel wetland tanks have been designed — these were incidentally designed by the labour and were not in the original plan — through which grey water passes before going through the last layer of filtration media and is released into the pond.

Before entering the horizontal gravel filter system, grey water passes through a screen chamber and has a bypass system for high flow of storm water during rainy seasons. It then enters the settling tank (2.5–3 cubic metre). The plant has a capacity of 5 cubic metre per day.

Currently, there is an inflow of black water from septic tanks that has disturbed the system. Hence, the village Panchayat is planning to initiate interventions at the household level and add an extra treatment module to cater to the high BOD load.

Local Canna indica plants are planted in the wetland so that the roots of the plant pick up the nutrients, thereby cleaning the water. Although this method is capable of removing up to 75-80 per cent of BOD, the Gram Panchayat is not testing regularly.

They do not face algal growth any longer, which previously was usually the case post-monsoon. Algal growth indicates presence of nitrates in water and causes eutrophication of the waterbody.

(left) Grey-water treatment plant in Ghughwa village (right)	 	     Soak pit in Ghughwa grey-water treatment plant         (Photo: Swati Bhatia, CSE)

Anaerobic treatment of grey water: Ghughwa

A similar community-level grey water management system was designed for Ghugwa village (also a Gram Panchayat). The system is based on anaerobic treatment designed by 5D Buildcon, an Ahmedabad-based consultancy firm.

The Gram Panchayat and WaterAid, India, helped implement the system in 2020. The grey water management system was constructed at the endpoint of a drain, which in turn was connected with a drainage network connected to 159 households.

As in Patora, untreated grey water from the drain flowed into the village pond. To prevent entry of grey water into the pond, the grey water treatment unit was planned to be made at the final collection point of the drain network in the Ghughwa village.

Detailed studies were done and on the basis of data available and calculations of flow rate, it was estimated that approximately 5 cubic metre per day (m3) of grey water is produced. On the basis of population projections, a plant with capacity of 7 m3 per day capacity was proposed.

The plant currently caters to grey water from 159 out of 272 households. An anaerobic filtration module was proposed on the basis of availability of space, easy flow of water, operation and maintenance and budget requirement. The DEWATSTM model was adopted keeping in mind the cost of operation and maintenance.

Water quality results of the inlet and outlet samples from Ghughwa grey-water treatment plant

Operation and maintenance

Household- and community-level soak pits in Ghughwa and Patora villages:

Household-level soak pits are maintained by individual-household beneficiaries. There is no cost sharing by the Panchayat as of now. The community-level leach pits /soak pits are maintained by the Gram Panchayat. The sarpanch estimates, however, roughly Rs 3,000–5,000 per annum towards the cost of cleaning the soak pits.

Community-level grey-water treatment unit at Patora and Ghughwa:

The annual maintenance cost is approximately Rs 15,000–20,000 per annum and borne by the Gram Panchayats. The constructed wetland at Patora required changing of media every three to four years, an additional cost to the Gram Panchayat.

The plan is to change the filter layers at an interval of three to four years. As both the systems are new, a significant amount of maintenance work has not been done. The gravel filter layer in the constructed wetland in Patora has been changed.

Drawing of the grey-water treatment plant using ABR in Ghughwa village

This is a part of Water Compendium published by the Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi

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