Sopodera residents fetch water on Wednesday from the reverse osmosis (RO) plant installed by Tata Power. RO is an advanced water purification technology that uses a semi-permeable membrane instead of a purification candle. It helps in removing contaminants from water. More formally, it is a separation process that uses pressure to force water through a membrane, which retains contaminants and allows pure water to pass to the other side. This method helps bring down the total dissolved solids to acceptable levels of 50ppm to 150ppm. Picture by Animesh Sengupta
Around 10km from Jamshedpur is an ATM that disburses, no, not money, but water.
Thanks to Tata Power, over 1,500 households of Sopodera in Sarjamda panchayat will henceforth have access to clean drinking water with the company installing a Rs 8-lakh-worth reverse osmosis plant with a capacity to spew 1,000 litres of H2O every hour.
Sarjamda, which is close to the company’s power plant in Jojobera, has been facing acute drinking water crisis for long. For, the water that comes through hand pumps has a high level of impurities, logging a scary 2,560ppm of total dissolved solids (TDS) against permissible levels of 50-150ppm.
This meant residents of the locality, especially women and elders, spent half a day trying to source safe drinking water by travelling to the steel city or buying it from tanker operators.
“Water is an integral part of everyone’s life and residents of Sopodera were hard-pressed for adequate safe drinking water,” said D.S. Kudalkar, the head of Tata Power’s Jojobera plant.
“The company aims to alleviate this stress and is the first to install a reverse osmosis plant in the area,” he said, satisfied that the company’s corporate social responsibility project had finally come to fruition.
“We will constantly support, and respond to, the needs of our surrounding communities by adopting such initiatives in the future,” he added.
The installed system comprises a water treatment and filtration unit, an enclosure for storing water and a quality testing centre. Outside the building, which houses the facility, is the dispensing unit.
Alongside is a remote sensing equipment that interacts with a back-end control system, enabling computerised monitoring of the system.
Essentially, a company official explained, the RO system behaves much like an ATM, allowing only “cash-less” transactions using an RIFD, or radio-frequency identification card, which residents can swipe at the dispensing unit whenever they need to collect water.
As of now, around 200 cards have been distributed among residents. For starters, one swipe of a card will yield unlimited water. But as number of users increase, the official clarified, water would be rationed to say five litres to 10 litres per swipe.
How safe is the water? Very, the official insisted.
“An authorised laboratory has tested the system and certified it. The purification system is able to bring down TDS levels to less than100 ppm,” he said, adding that it would now be managed by the Sarjamda panchayat, which will charge users a nominal fee that will be used to maintain the plant and pay for the electricity consumed.
Local residents were highly appreciative of the system put in place by the Tatas, which has all along campaigned for eco-friendly measures like rainwater harvesting to ensure groundwater levels were sustained.
“We are thankful to the company for providing us with this pure drinking water facility. Otherwise, we do not have access to pure and safe drinking water. We had no option but to drink water with very high levels of impurities,” said Hare Krishna Singh, a teacher.