Despite large fund allocations towards providing safe drinking water and sanitation in India, access to safe and sustainable drinking water to majority of rural population remains incomplete. The inadequate water and sanitation infrastructure and poor service delivery and unsafe behaviours are collectively responsible for high diarrhoea incidences especially in children. In 2015, Atmashakti initiated to work towards water and sanitation issues prevalent in rural tribal areas of Odisha in 6 blocks of 5 districts.  The initiative started with the support of Arghyam to bring about some policy level changes.

The objective of our intervention is to bring sustainability in water & sanitation for common people and to bring behavioural change towards sanitation. Gradually, local sangathans started escalating safe drinking water issues form other blocks/districts, resulting in immense pressure on local, district and state administration to deliver on people's demand as per the water and sanitation related rights and entitlements.

Initially, we began with 6 blocks namely - Koraput block of Koraput district, Mathli block of Malkhangiri district, Baliguda & K-Nuagaon block in Kandhmal district, Hemgir block in Sundargarh and Jamankira block in Sambalpur but now we are working in 14 districts on water and sanitation related issues. 

We are demanding Safe Drinking water for all, and this culminated into state-central level campaign linking water to "Right to Life" (Article 21). In August 2015, the Right to safe drinking water campaign was launched in 6 blocks of 5 districts in which, we had given training to 1000 village cadres in water testing, writing demands and petitions.

We tested water samples from different sources to know the status of quality of drinking water.  The results were surprising. In Malkhangiri, 37 water samples out of 150 in Jamankira, 6 samples out of 28, 6 samples in Baliguda out of 32, had iron beyond the permissible limit, which is very hazardous for human consumption.

Gradually, after the campaign, people started culminating water issues from others areas of the state as they started realizing the need for pure water. Thus, Atmashakti decided to organize Padyatra in Kandhmal and Malkhangiri which started on 14th November, 2016 and concluded after 27 days.

After Padyatra, many parts of the state specially Kandhmal and Malkhangiri, people started bringing their issues by themselves, they were then capacitated to write applications and petitions through our people's collective.

We covered 285 villages during 27-day long Padyatra and we reached out to 66280 HHs. We identified 1031 issues related to malnutrition, livelihood and water& sanitation.

Apart from day-to day activity

Our consistent follow-ups and demand for safe drinking water has started influencing the state administration as government of Odisha has launched a new scheme in both rural & urban area named "BASUDHA"with the cost of Rupees 1000 Cr. to ensure water is available to all.

Currently, we are working towards bringing behavioural changes in the community towards good sanitation practices, through school children, as they are the change makers of the community. We are focusing on use of toilets change, hand wash practices, using boiled water to drink.

We are now preparing grassroots leaders, who have been trained in last 2 and half years to sustain the momentum of escalating grassroots issues and demanding policy level intervention.

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