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Carolina Students Launch Clean Water Project

Sam Amirsaman and Hattie Morehead, March 15, 2021

In Spring 2020, the Healthy Hands Initiative (HHI), a student-led, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, identified numerous villages across Bokaro district in Jharkhand with alarmingly high rates of deadly waterborne illness. It was brought about by a common challenge: local families resorting to drinking from polluted water sources following the breakdown of poorly implemented water pumps and lack of maintenance. The team’s interviews with Bokaro villagers revealed a common complaint: as one local mother puts it, “We have to go to the lake to bathe. There is no arrangement from the government, so what will we do?” 

The comprehensive investigation of Bokaro’s water crisis eventually led to the establishment of the Healthy Hands Initiative and the implementation of sustainable water solutions. “Through my experience, I had good evidence that these villagers would make good use of resources if they were just provided them. Their barrier was a system that wasn’t open to hearing and addressing the people of the community,” said Mehal Churiwal, co- President of HHI, reflecting on her research on Bokaro district, “That’s when I was encouraged to help launch HHI.” 

Launched in February 2020, HHI’s mission is to supply sustainable clean water solutions to impoverished communities of Eastern India. At HHI, the uniting belief is that access to clean drinking water should not serve as an obstacle to attaining adequate health throughout the Bokaro district – and the greater water-deprived communities of Eastern India, where diarrheal disease constitutes nearly 90% of deaths linked to inadequate water access.  

HHI demonstrated a spirited commitment to their mission statement through the design and direction of their pilot project in Bokaro’s Lalpur village. With their research findings, HHI began integrating their promising solution: a cost-effective, culturally familiar Afridev hand pump. This approach was grounded in cultural humility, where its local familiarity promotes community buy-in as opposed to introducing an unfamiliar water system. 

In February 2021, HHI successfully completed construction of its first handpump project in the village of Lalpur. It supplied 200 villagers, ranging from children to adults, with 24/7, year-round access to clean drinking water. Now, HHI is collecting feedback from these families to confirm the success of the project and work out any problems. This accomplishment has encouraged HHI team members to continue their work and to construct three additional hand pumps in surrounding villages by December 2021.  

This past year, part of the HHI team was able to investigate problems regarding social sanitation in several villages in the Bokaro district up close through an Undergraduate Research Consultant Team (URCT) grant. To support HHI’s future endeavors with a monetary donation or to learn more about the initiative’s work and team members, visit the HHI website.

The women of Bokaro enjoying the Afridev hand pump. Clean Water Project-2

The Afridev hand pump during construction. Clean Water Project-3

A glimpse into the Bokaro village. Clean Water Project-4

The pump in action: a Bokaro local collects water.