The village Banashyam Nagar is in eastern India – nearly as far to the east in the country as you can go. It lies in the vast delta on the Bay of Bengal, formed by the confluence of several major rivers. Bright green fields are broken up by trees, homes, and ponds. Despite the networks of waterways, communities in this area struggle with reliable access to safe water.
High salinity levels in surface water and stagnant ponds throughout the islands mean drinking water can only come from hand pumps connected to deep wells.
There are 32 families in this village who now use one of these hand pumps. It was installed in 2016 with support from Water For People, the local government, and the community itself. Before the pump’s installation, there was no safe water source nearby. Members of the village, primarily the women, walked nearly a mile to fetch water and carry it back.
“It took me at least half an hour to walk there to get water, and I had to go three or four times a day,” shares Sulata Giri, who lives near the new pump.
This was a common experience for the women of Banashyam Nagar – walking a mile one way to the nearest water point, waiting in the queue up to 40 minutes, and then walking back carrying the heavy water vessels – only to repeat this activity over and over every day.
Women in villages like Banashyam Nagar are constantly busy – cooking, cleaning, and caring for their families and domestic animals. Balancing all of this with the hours lost every day fetching water means time is one of their most precious resources. When their new hand pump was installed, they gained hours of that time back.
“Since we have the hand pump in front of our house now, even while I’m cooking I can just run out and get water,” shares Sulata. As a mother of two girls, the value of this time saved is significant. “Now I can rest. I can also manage my family and household better.”
Sulata’s neighbor Parvati is a 7-year-old who loves dancing. She used to fetch water for her family up to four times a day.
“I used to go to the water point with my friends and sister,” explains Parvati. “Going there was easy with the empty bottles, but then I didn’t like carrying them back. I used to get really tired. Now I collect water and can go back home dancing, it’s so close.”
Now, water is associated with time to rest. Women sit on the steps of the covered hand pump and talk with their neighbors. Children play nearby. What was once a chore is now an opportunity for these women to take a breath from their busy days and do what they never used to be able to do – relax.
Whether it’s more time to manage a family and household, earn income, or even dance, the village of Banashyam Nagar knows that the proximity of safe and reliable water has given them time.