Mid-Internship Update!

Hello again from Simran Rajpal! I’m currently interning for Safe Water Network, a nonprofit delivering reliable, affordable, and safe water to more than 500 communities throughout Ghana and India. Last blog, I discussed why water availability and sanitation are so vital to public and community health – specifically through the lens of women’s health and empowerment.

In this blog, I’d like to focus on the inner workings of broad-scale safe water collection and distribution efforts in a state of India – Karnataka. In the past month and a half, I’ve been transcribing and categorizing a series of interviews done this summer about the importance of Safe Water Network’s efforts on local communities in a series of villages in the state. One of my favorite interviews was with Santosh, a self-proclaimed water “bike warrior.” As a community outreach specialist, he works to ensure safe water access to thousands of families in the district. Because of his efforts, the water station in his district has become the central pillar of the families he reaches. What was amazing about him, though, was not just how he had expanded the reach of Safe Water Network’s efforts – but rather, that he accomplished all of it during COVID.

Safe Water Network has a comprehensive, multi-year agreement with the Government of Karnataka to help upgrade the reliability and performance of water purification plants across thirty districts. COVID only exacerbated the need that Safe Water Network was already addressing: on top of so many water-stressed parts of India, the state of Karnataka also has source water contamination, as well as the challenge of safe water access for underserved communities.

In response, the state built one of the largest systems of water purification plants in the country, serving over 40 million people. Safe Water Network is now deploying its technical and management expertise to help improve the performance, reliability and affordability of these systems. But these systems aren’t possible without people like Santosh making sure these wide networks work on the ground – it’s such a good reminder of how vital local personnel are to the webs of public health systems that hold our societies up.

Over the past 18 months, we’ve all seen how critical public health is to our daily lives – the minute public health guidance, policies, or infrastructure fails, our entire way of life is affected. In working with analyzing and categorizing these interviews, I’ve reached a much more improved understanding of how vital local-level partnerships and the actual people involved within these systems are so important to protecting our ways of life.

Because of people like Santosh, 40 million people gained access to reliable safe water through the state government’s decentralized water purification system. And, the work has only just begun – with greater accountability, and infrastructure implementation and improvements by Safe Water Network, more and more people will be helped and empowered to utilize safe water resources.

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About Simran Rajpal

Hi! I'm a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania studying Public Health and Computational Biology. This summer, with the support of CASI, I am interning for Safe Water Network through the Water Center at Penn. I will be studying Safe Water Access in India, specifically through the lens of gender equity and women's health.