Stepping into the hallway from my air-conditioned room at the hotel feels like walking into a hot sauna – and it’s only 6:00 AM. It’s supposed to get to 105 today (that's about 40C for my Canadian friends), and the humidity is, well, a “challenge”. This is the first day of our field work: we will be visiting several communities in Parthapratima Block of South 24 Parganas, West Bengal, India. We will interview water point users, water committees, government officials, non-governmental organization (NGO) partners, and the Jalabandhus (hand pump mechanics). We are a World Water Corps volunteer team of three, and we are in India for 10 days to study how to reduce down-time of hand pumps in the area. We are being hosted and guided by the excellent Water For People staff from the India office, who will also be our translators..
On our first stop of the day we hope to visit a broken-down India Mark II hand pump at a school, and if we are very lucky, the Jalabandus we meet there will actually repair the pump so that we get a feel for what the Jalabandhus do. I also want to get some good photos and video of real pump repair work.
. . .
Looking back now at the end of the day, we were lucky indeed!. The mechanics replaced a broken chain in the pump; the chain came from the local market (30 km away), so while we waited, we used the time to interview the Jalabandhus about their ideas on issues surrounding hand pump down time. And I shot lots of photos and video of the whole process. GREAT first day! And yes, those guys were HOT in those vests in the open sun.
Three Jalabandhus (“Friends of Water” in Bengali) remove the head of a Mark II pump so that they can replace the broken chain that connects the pump handle to the pump cylinder.
The chain that broke on the pump above was in operation for less than one year. The air in the region is laden with salt, and the water can have relatively high saline levels too. Because no preventive maintenance (greasing of the chain, bearings and bolts) was done, the chain completely failed much sooner than it should have – the chain completely rusted through.
The interviews we do are key to understanding the subtleties of all the issues affecting why repairs to broken hand pumps may be delayed. Water is central to life, and in this region where Water For People has helped the communities achieve 100% potable water supply coverage (Everyone), we are helping them to achieve long-term success (Forever).
Dipa Biswas, Water For People Project Officer, translates during an interview between Mr. Sunirmal Das (the Jalabandhu) and World Water Corps volunteer, Richard Gannon.
We interviewed two Jalabandhus and water point committee members at three local hand pump locations today. Now that we have our survey approach tried and tested, and our first taste of doing work it very hot and humid conditions, we’re ready to do it all over again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day… I’m so grateful for the shower in my room.
A fresh-looking team of three World Water Corps volunteers with Swagato Mitra, Monitoring Evaluation and Public Relationship Officer for Water For People. Left to right: Jeff Friesen (volunteer team lead), Swagato Mitra, Jenny Tanphanich (volunteer), Richard Gannon (volunteer).