|Community perceptions of chlorination and other water-purification methods in Nepal|
by Emmanuelle Ravat-Francoise
Environmental Camps for Conservation Awareness (ECCA-Nepal) has been working with Antenna Technologies since 2008 to produce and distribute WATASOL, a chlorination solution designed to purify water at the household level. So far, WATASOL has been primarily distributed through schools ; more specifically, ECCA has been training students who are members of “Nature Clubs” to produce chlorine through electrolysis thanks to the electro- chlorination device which they provide (“WATA”), and to distribute it through their communities, conducting door-to-door “safe water awareness campaigns” as they do so.
However, the uptake for WATASOL has been rather slow. While the original goal of this Safe Drinking Water initiative was for WATASOL to become a revenue-generating product for schools and entrepreneurs who distribute it, it is still heavily subsidized. In addition, many first- time users of WATASOL do not repeat their purchase.A household survey in a variety of communities in the Kathmandu valley (Khokana, Dhapakhel, Bansighat, Bungamati, Lele and Champi) was conducted in July and August 2014. It included questions on the respondents’ level of awareness regarding HWTS, their satisfaction with respect to their water supply situation and their behavior regarding water treatments such as chlorination, filtration, boiling or solar disinfection. The survey showed that most people are aware of safe water solutions, including chlorination. However, they tend to use chlorination or other purification methods only when they perceive an urgent need for it, namely when the water is visibly turbid, or when a family member is sick. The taste of chlorine in WATASOL-treated water is also an issue for many users. In addition, a supply-system relying heavily on schools’ nature clubs may not be sufficient to turn WATASOL into a household brand.
Moreover, Safe Water awareness remains a key issue. For example, although many people use a basic candle filter, most users do not change their candles regularly, primarily because they are not aware they should do so, or because they might not be able to afford it and/or see the need for it. This suggests that more should be done in terms of awareness messages around safe drinking water, be it at the institutional level, at the place of purchase of water purification products, or via other means such as establishing or reinforcing collaboration with healthcare workers or other groups (Women’s groups, youth groups, etc.). In order to explore these various options, qualitative interviews with schools and their nature clubs, local NGOs, public institutions and other organizations dealing with water issues were also conducted.