Clean drinking water is an essential part in maintaining quality health among any population. Dharamsala’s lack of filtered drinking water is significantly contributing to a rise in health problems in both the local Indian community and the Tibetan Refugee community alike. An inadequate drainage and septic system, leaking water pipes, water shortages and polluted drinking water all contribute to the decrease in health that the local community is facing. The most vulnerable members of society, those living below the poverty line, bare the biggest health burden.
To decrease the risk of water borne illness in the community, Lha has taken on a water filtration initiative in seven schools since 2010, six Tibetan schools and one Indian school. The filtration system uses a Reverse-osmosis, Activated Carbon and Ultra-violet process. The water filtration installation system includes a 500 liter stainless steel storage tank which acts as a reserve water supply in the event of a power outage or water shortage. The system is able to effectively filter 100 liters of water per hour. An additional 2086 students and approximately 200 staff are served by these filtration systems. Some of those students include those who board on school campus and thus they rely solely on the drinking water provided.
In autumn 2013, two environmental studies students volunteered with Lha to carry out a survey on the water filtration systems in all schools. The survey is used to see how the system has a direct impact on health and general awareness about contaminated water in the school communities, to check the systems efficiency and to assess the usage and acceptance of the system. This will allow us to identify areas for improvement in current and further installation.
The survey indicates a significant increase in student’s health since the installation of the water filtration systems. With 84% of students and teachers agreeing that the system led to better health and only 16% agreeing that they did not see a change; there were no results indicating decrease in health. The increased health benefits of the water filtration system can also be seen through class attendance as 74% of students and teachers concluded that there is in fact an improvement in class attendance and thus fewer absences due to water borne illness.
Further education on drinking water safety is highly encouraged as the majority of survey respondents concluded that sediments and mud were the number one reason for water contamination (Figure 6). Education on bacteria and parasites may help to increase the awareness for the need to have fresh drinking water in order to help sustain quality health in a community.
Maintenance is essential for the sustainability of the water filtration systems. Thus, Lha has taken on the responsibility for the developmental sustainability of all of its current water filtration systems, all the while continuing to spread the message of safe drinking water for improved health by providing additional filtration systems to other schools.
To further this, there is a new job positing at Lha for a “Clean Water Project Manager.” The employee will be responsible for managing health and hygiene education programs at varying locations (schools, monasteries, etc). The employee must stay in contact with the local Administration and Health Departments of the local Indian Government as well as the Central Tibetan Administration.
The water filtration project is highly valued and its ongoing success is necessary. We thank the Central Tibetan Administration for their recent letter of appreciation for the water filtration systems. We rely on the support of our donors and volunteers as a water filtration system instillation is around US $2 500. This includes a one year warranty, a water storage tank, the instillation fee and a water dispenser.
We sincerely appreciate all of your support in helping to making this great initiative possible!