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Tamil village shows the way to grey water management

It was typical to see grey water being released onto the roads, which caused pollution and stagnant water, which served as a breeding ground for parasites, bacteria, and mosquitoes
Tamil village shows the way to grey water management
A village in Tamil Nadu showing the way in grey water management

Giving impetus to waste-water treatment in the villages, a grey water management system has been successfully executed at Pappankuzhi village panchayat in Kanchipuram district of Tamil Nadu with the coordinated efforts of community members and government representatives. About 42,000 litres of greywater are effectively treated each day in the hamlet by the system, which consists of community soak pits and individual residence soak pits with either horizontal or vertical type filters. Grey water management is a key component of the Swachh Bharat Mission – Grameen (SBM-G) Phase II campaign of the Government of India.

Community ownership

A swachhagrahi (cleanliness ambassador), A. Sarla Devi was instrumental in raising public awareness of the value of managing both solid and liquid waste and the necessity of grey water management in the hamlet. Grey water’s characteristics and the risks associated with inappropriate treatment were made known to the public. Ganesan, the village panchayat president, and the panchayat secretary then played a crucial role in promoting the necessity of greywater management and allocating the finances required to set up a system in Pappankuzhi in November 2021. The community was urged to take specific precautions to ensure better management while the gram panchayat took charge of the system’s operation and upkeep. This included making sure waste wasn’t put into the drainage channel, desilting was done to keep grey water from stagnating, and the storm water drain was regularly cleaned.

Genesis

Pappankuzhi is comprised of the habitations of Pappankuzhi village and Pappankuzhi colony and is located in the Sriperumbudur block of the Kanchipuram district, has a total population of 1016 people living in 474 homes. The village has two overhead tanks with a combined capacity of 30,000 litres. The average family uses 60,000 litres of water each day, of which 70 per cent—or 42,000 liters—is converted to grey water.

Earlier in the absence of this mechanism, it was typical to see grey water being released onto the roads, which caused pollution and stagnant water, which served as a breeding ground for parasites, bacteria, and mosquitoes that spread diseases like dengue, malaria, and cholera. In locations with a high water table, there was open dumping and discharge into water bodies, which made issues worse by contaminating both the surface and groundwater. The neighbourhood was also ignorant of the fact that treated grey water might be used to alleviate severe water stress.

What is grey water?

The waste-water that is not contaminated with urine or faeces is referred to as grey water.  This includes water that has been used for bathing, dishwashing, laundry and other household usages.

Soak pit models

At a cost of Rs. 9300 per household, 93 houses had individual household soak pits built, which are suited for handling grey water at the individual household level. Additionally, two community soak pits with horizontal-type filters were built at drainage system disposal locations for a total of Rs. 133,000 each. These soak pits work well in areas with high groundwater tables, and the cleaned water can be used for irrigation purposes. Additionally, at a disposal point of the drainage system, one community soak pit with a vertical type filter that is ideal for clusters with low water tables was built for Rs. 127,000.

Construction of a single household soak pit is straightforward using materials that can be found nearby. With the use of this technology, grey water can be treated at the source rather than flowing into village walkways, open fields, or collecting in low-lying regions. 93 families in Pappankuzhi village were given separate household soak pits to handle grey water as they could not be connected to the drainage channel.

An individual household soak pit is made up of a concrete tub that is placed inside of which suspended particles settle, allowing grey water to overflow into the filter media where it gets filtered and safely percolates into the ground. It also includes a collection pipe or platform where grey water generated in households is collected, an inspection chamber where solid and other floating material suspended in the grey water gets filtered, and the soak pit itself.

Customisation according to the need

Grey water produced by homes with limited area can be effectively treated using horizontal or vertical filter soak pits. They are typically built near the drainage systems’ discharge locations. Given that horizontal-type soak pits can recover and reuse treated water for agricultural use in areas with high water tables.

In contrast, vertical type soak pits can be built in low-water-table places where the treated water will assist in re-fill the groundwater table and require less surface area than horizontal type soak pits. One vertical soak pit costing Rs. 127,000 was built in Pappankuzhi next to Sivan Koil Street.

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