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Analyzing hand pump down time in India

Analyzing hand pump down time in India

June 12, 2014

Authored by Jeff Friesen, CH2M HILL civil engineer and Water For People volunteer team leader, as part one of a three-part series regarding his World Water Corps volunteer project in India

Stepping into the hallway from my air-conditioned room at the hotel feels like walking into a hot sauna – and it’s only 6:00 AM.  It’s supposed to get to 105 today, and the humidity is, well, a “challenge”.  This is the first day of our field work: we will be visiting several communities in Parthapratima Block of South 24 Parganas, West Bengal, India to interview water point users, water committees, government officials, non-governmental organization (NGO) partners, and the Jalabandhus (hand pump mechanics). We are a World Water Corps volunteer team of three, and we are in India for 10 days to study how to reduce down-time of hand pumps in the area.  We are being hosted and guided by the excellent Water For People staff from the India office, who will also be our translators.

I’m excited about our first stop of the day – we’re very lucky to be visiting a broken-down India Mark II hand pump at a school, and if we are very lucky, the Jalabandus we meet there will actually repair the pump so that we get a feel for what the Jalabandhus do. I also want to get some good photos and video of real pump repair work.

Looking back now at the end of the day, we were lucky indeed! We accomplished five interviews, and watched the mechanics replace the broken chain in the pump. The chain came from the local market (30 km away), so while we waited, we used the time to interview the Jalabandhus about their ideas on issues surrounding hand pump down time. And I got lots of photos and video of the whole process.

Three Jalabandhus (“Friends of Water” in Bengali) remove the head of a Mark II pump so that they can replace the broken chain that connects the pump handle to the pump cylinder.

Three Jalabandhus (“Friends of Water” in Bengali) remove the head of a Mark II pump so that they can replace the broken chain that connects the pump handle to the pump cylinder.

The chain that broke was in operation for less than one year. The air in the region is laden with salt, and the water can have relatively high saline levels too. Because no preventive maintenance (greasing of the chain, bearings and bolts) was done, the chain completely failed much sooner than it should have – the chain completely rusted through.Fixing a hand pump in India

The interviews we do are key to understanding the subtleties of all the issues affecting why repairs to broken hand pumps may be delayed. Water is central to life, and in this region where Water For People has helped the communities achieve 100% potable water supply coverage (Everyone), we are helping them to achieve long-term success (Forever). The Everyone Forever goal of Water For People is ambitious, but achievable, and is being proven here.

We interviewed two Jalabandhus and water point committee members at three local hand pump locations today. Now that we have our survey approach tried and tested, and our first taste of doing work it very hot and humid conditions, we’re ready to do it all over again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day…I’m so grateful for the shower in my room.

A fresh-looking team of three World Water Corps volunteers with Swagato Mitra, Monitoring Evaluation and Public Relationship Officer for Water For People. Left to right: Jeff Friesen (volunteer team lead), Swagato Mitra, Jenny Tanphanich (volunteer), Richard Gannon (volunteer).

A fresh-looking team of three World Water Corps volunteers with Swagato Mitra, Monitoring Evaluation and Public Relationship Officer for Water For People. Left to right: Jeff Friesen (volunteer team lead), Swagato Mitra, Jenny Tanphanich (volunteer), Richard Gannon (volunteer).

Connect with us:

Jeff Friesen is a civil engineer in the Water Market in Los Angeles, California. He has been with CH2M HILL since 2003. He is also a photographer and a Volunteer Team Leader for the World Water Corps, which is the volunteer arm of Water For People. See more of Jeff’s photos at www.jdfphotography.com.

Water For People is a CH2M HILL enterprise community partner as it supports the company’s values and the mission of the CH2M HILL Foundation to build sustainable communities. This year, employees’ donations to the organization surpassed $1.5 million total raised during 11 annual workplace giving campaigns. Beyond the financial support, CH2M HILL employees also lend technical expertise with 15 employees volunteering over the past three years on World Water Corps trips.

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June 2014

Comments

  1. Luke Webb


    Awesome story thanks! What are the suggestions to prevent this happening in the future? Is grease easy to obtain in remote India and education was performed or are there more modern materials that dont suffer from these effects in the harsh climate to be installed instead?
    Reply

    1. Jeff Friesen


      Thanks for your question, Luke. There are several things that can extend the life of most handpump components, and handpumps in general. First (and least expensive), the community members can do regular maintenance on the pump, such as greasing the chain (in the case of the Mark II pump in the photos) using proper grease. That way, they invest time more than money (the grease costs a bit of money too, mind you). Second, they can use good-quality parts, which in the case of the Mark II chain again, can last four times as long as a low-quality chain (more cost again). Third, an active water committee can develop a positive cash balance for pump repair services, and spare parts supply/replacement using a tariff system. Forth, the water committee can educate the community members on the long-term savings involved in the use of better quality (but more expensive) parts when repairs are needed. Fifth, boreholes can be dug deeper and screens placed lower when the borehole is developed so that the well is less susceptible to lowered water tables during the dry summer. Sixth, the excessive depression of the groundwater table due to shallow electric pumps for irrigation of rice can be controlled and curtailed so that the water table does not drop below the hand pump screens. There are more, but the more of those that can be implemented, the better. There are a lot of interrelationships between the variables when considering how to reduce the down time, but I would say that education of the community members in the real long-term savings of thinking ahead is necessary for the most significant and longest-lasting improvements. Cheers, - Jeff

  2. Pingback: Hand Pump Down Time Assessment – West Bengal, India

  3. Pingback: Part III of West Bengal Hand Pump Down Time Assessment

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