Abundance of water in flood plains of north Bihar had been a problem. Small localised innovations like matka filter and jal kothi have provided the highly acceptable solutions for the nation to replicate.
People in five districts of north Bihar — Supaul, Saharsa, Khagaria, Madhubani and West Champaran — have learnt how to access iron, arsenic and bacteria free drinking water using traditional pots, known as matka.
“By putting in brickbats, course sand and charcoal in one of the pots and allow water to pass through it can remove these impurities in water” said Eklavya Prasad, who quit his Delhi-based job to be part of the project, Megh Pyne Abhiyan, supported by Rohini Nilekani led NGO Arghyam.
When Prasad visited these districts in 2005, he was convinced that bringing solutions from outside will not work because of affordability factor.
With the help of the Pune-based NGO the Advance Center for Water Resource Development and Management, Prasad and his team developed matka filter at a cost of just R800 compared to a branded filter costing around R10,000.
They also educated people how quality of water can be checked by putting a crushed guava leaves in water. If the colour of water turned dark purple, it had high content of iron.
The floods also brought scarcity of drinking water as hand-pumps got sunk or silted. But, locals did not prefer drinking rainwater as they believed it was bad for health. It took a considerable time for the team to prove that rainwater was better for health.
With it, came localised devices to collect rainwater for drinking. The bigger problem was its storing. Prasad and his team found that the solution was in every household - a bamboo box meant to store food grains. With little innovation it was converted into water storage box which people can carry with them at the time of floods.