Bihar Water Quality Testing and Supply
This programme report has been developed to describe the water quality testing systems of the Public Health and Engineering Department, particularly with regard to the initiative taken up by the Bihar Technical Assistance Support Team under the SWASTH programme, aiming to ensure safe and sustained water supply in each and every household. It draws from secondary sources as well as information gathered through discussions with community members and other stakeholders involved in the initiative. Field level information was gathered from two districts of Bihar - Gaya and Arwal.
Bihar is the 12th largest state in the country and is abundant in natural resources, rivers and fertile land. However, water in most habitations is contaminated by chemicals like arsenic, fluoride, iron and nitrate. This contamination has resulted in water borne problems like arsenic poisoning, melanosis and fluorosis, which make it necessary for the Government of Bihar to provide safe drinking water to its people. While hand pumps are the main source of water for a majority of the rural population in Bihar, some also depend on mini piped-water supply schemes. To monitor the quality of water supplied to the habitations via hand pumps, piped schemes and other sources, the Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) of the Bihar Government has been operating water testing laboratories at the State and district levels and adopting various mitigation strategies in areas where water is contaminated.
The document ‘Bihar Water Quality Testing and Supply’ focuses on the technical assistance provided by the Bihar Technical Assistance and Support Team (BTAST) with the support of the Department for International Development (DFID-UK) under the Sector Wide Approach to Strengthening Health (SWASTH) programme. As part of this assistance, in 2013, BTAST provided infrastructural support to the state laboratory and all 38 district laboratories in Bihar by giving them with updated equipment and power back-up. BTAST also deployed personnel in 13 districts of Bihar. An innovative aspect of this initiative includes four mobile water testing laboratories that were introduced for the first time in Bihar, to conduct spot analysis of water samples from different water sources in remote areas. The success of these mobile laboratories has encouraged the State Government to plan for five more such laboratories to achieve effective examination of water quality in Bihar.