This study took place in rural villages in the Theni district, located in the south of Tamil Nadu, near the Kerala border. Theni’s is quite dry with very few natural water resources. People from those villages are mostly agricultural worker or 100 days worker (social program created by the Indian government). Different casts exist inside those villages, with a high percentage of dalit people.
People had access to several sources of water to complete their basic needs. A regional network (called “panchayat tap”) brings water in common taps situated in the villages’ streets. In general, around five households share the same tap, but it can be up to 20 households in the worse cases. At these taps water is available few hours (one or two according villages) every 2 or 3 days and daily for very lucky one. Moreover, this water is not drinkable.
Other resources exist (like wells) but this water is not appropriate for consumption because of its salinity.
Kynarou’s action in water supply
Kynarou, our partner in Theni, set up systems of filters and storage connected to the regional network. Those filters provide a permanent access to potable water for the population: they are only used for drinking purpose.
Like in other countries, the method was to interview people who benefit of the service and people who do not. We chose villages that benefited of Kynarou’s action and villages which will benefit in the future.
10% of the population, chosen randomly but respecting a geographic distribution, were interviewed in each village.
It is noteworthy that we had to invent a new category because some people from villages which benefited of Kynarou’s action don’t use it.
So we had 3 categories of people:
- People who don’t have access to Kynarou supply
- People who have access but don’t use it
- People who use it
You can see below an average dweller’s portrait:
|Number in the household||4|
|Description of the house||Concrete House|
|Income of the households||2903 (38€) Rupees / Month|
|Kind of job||Daily worker|
Our initial hypothesis was that the two populations were similar. This question was solved by an economic and social survey showing that the two populations are comparable.
People who use Kynarou filters seem to be a little bit wealthier than the others.
Changes in habits concerning water
As expected, most of people who have access to Kynarou system replace their old source by Kynarou system to drink and cook. It is important to note this because it is the proof that the system is adapted to the population. Nevertheless, a part of the population don’t use it and we will try to detail the possible reasons.
Kynarou’s action seems to have an impact on the way of using water in villages. In fact, Kynarou water is not used for washing clothes and body but Kynarou beneficiaries use more Panchayat water to wash their body and their clothes. We can imagine two reasons:
• When Kynarou acts in a village, they also renovate the tank. Water coming from the tank (which is the water of Panchayat tap) is then of better quality and so people are more likely to use it.
• The use of Kynarou system to drink and to cook decreases the pressure on the panchayat tap and so there is more water for other uses.
Why people do not use Kynarou system whereas they have access to it ?
This is one of our biggest question. Why do people prefer to drink dirty water whereas they have access in their village to a clean water source? Talking with people, we noticed several reasons:
- People say that the tap is far from their house (not more than 500 hundred meters) compared to the panchayat tap. This could be considered like an absurdity for an exterior observatory but we can understand that at the end of a day in the fields, you may not have the motivation to go far from your house to get water
- Cast could be another explanation. People from high cast don’t want to use a water source used by Dalit people.
- Local tension, like women
Providing water for people is of course a technical issue but the social part is as important as the technical one.
A global improvement of the health situation
What a surprise! At first sight, the study shows that there are very few diseases linked with water.
However, group discussions and establishing schedules of daily organization for women show that this kind of diseases are much more present than the quantitative analysis shows.
Results show an improvement concerning global health situation (not linked with water) of people with a big decrease of health expenditures and a decrease of this kind of diseases (34.1 % of people having Kynarou access face this kind of problem, whereas it is 55.7 % for people who do not have access to the Kynarou system).
It shows a real taboo around faeces and hydric diseases.
Population has been divided in three groups: very poor people, poor people and not poor people. Percentage of sick people inside each group was studied.
The same analysis as in Bangladesh has been conducted and shows similar results
Globally, wealth seems to have an influence on health (Figure above ). We can notice that to have access to a drinking water source (Kynarou service) makes the biggest difference for poor people: 47% of the poor households are sick without Kynarou system, when 17,2% are sick with the system. So Kynarou system has more impact on poor households than on rich households because it changes deeply their way of life. Nevertheless, globally, rich people are less sick than other because they beneficiate of better life conditions like a better alimentation.
To conclude, it is noteworthy that others factors must be taken in account in those studies. Water can’t do all.
Toilets, the main topic in those villages
Field work, group discussions and interviews with women show us that sanitation was a real key point for the population and more than all for women.
Women underline that they prefer common latrines to individual latrine offered by the government, because they are convinced that having latrines at home is not hygienic.
Recurrent issues linked with latrines discussed during focus group discussion were:
- Fear for girl to be abused
- Shame because of the unique place for both, men and women
- Feeling of stress
- Need to be several women to go for open defecation
- Lack of hygiene more than all during periods days
- Fear of insects
Kynarou, by building common latrines, has found the key solution to improve this situation
Peace of mind
Group discussions help us to understand that one of the main improvement brought by Kynarou’s work is peace of mind for women. In fact, with Kynarou system, they have certainty that they will have access to water at least once in a day, that was not the case with panchayat tap.
The action of Kynarou corresponds well to the local situation around Theni: 73% of the households use it
The previous results show the improvements with a change of water consumption habits, with an improvement of global health situation. Moreover, Kynarou’s action brings some non-quantitative improvements like peace of mind for women in charge of the water collection.
Nevertheless, Kynarou is well adapted to the context but it only solves drinking water issue. No improvements were seen concerning saved time. Moreover, Kynarou actions face local social issue and so 25% of the population who have access to
Kynarou must not be summarized only to its filter action: Kynarou does more than bringing water to those populations. It succeeds in aiming one of the main issue of those villages: access to block toilets for women!
See the video below to understand more!