Bengal villages get sanitation facelift

I got married and moved to my in-laws’ village in Banshibera last month. This toilet with bathing facility is the best gift from Rotary in my marriage. This is unimaginable,” says Malati Bouri (19), while Swapan Hansda (55) of Sundiara village “never dreamt of ever using a toilet. I am so happy to have one in my house now.”  Sujoy, a schoolboy from Sundiara says,  “In school we get to drink pure water and that has improved our health too.”

Life in these two non-­descript villages — ­Sundiara-Rajkusum and Banshibera in West Bengal — has changed for the better with the installation of six toilet blocks of 10 units each, that are being serviced by three  tube wells and three borewells, thus ushering in sanitation and hygiene to these villages.

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Women using a tube well in Sundiara village.

This social transformation of the villagers was possible with the intervention of Rotary Club of Durgapur Central, D 3240, which along with RC Walsall Saddlers, D 1210, UK, and TRF, took up the sanitation and water project with an aim to provide a healthy living environment for all residents. Apart from separate toilets for men and women, clean drinking water is ­available from the tube wells and borewells for daily use and the organic manure from the urinal blocks is diverted for agriculture.

Project Coordinator Indranil Mukherjee says that  the project cost was Rs 26.4 lakh. “We are happy that these basic amenities will improve the villagers’  health, and more important ensure that their children go to school regularly without being deterred by recurring illness.”

Giving an overview of the project, PDG Swapan K Choudhury, in whose period as DG the project commenced a year ago, says, “It ­commemorates our ­District’s Silver Jubilee year. We did a needs assessment in the villages and involved the community elders in every stage of the project.”

Community outreach, training

A four-member team  nominated by the villagers looks after the training and maintenance of toilet blocks in their respective villages. The village beneficiaries were ‘toilet-trained’ through a series of workshops organised by the club. A Self-Help Group  is on the anvil to ensure the proper use and maintenance of toilet blocks and tube wells/borewells among the villagers.

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Rotarians along with beneficiaries in front of a toilet block in Banshibera village.

“In all, the project has benefitted 1,625 people in the two villages,” said Mukherjee. Some villagers already had toilets in their homes, he added.

Long-term goals

The club is keen to equip the ­villagers with skills to develop, fund and maintain sustainable amenities in the long run for their social and economic progress. The villagers plan to set aside a part of their monthly savings for the upkeep of the toilets.

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