Dr. K. Vijaya Lakshmi has been awarded with National Award for Women’s Development through Application of Science & Technology to recognize her outstanding contribution to solving environmental problems of the village communities especially the women by addressing issues concerning safe drinking water by development of a simple easy to use, field testing kit and community water filter. The Jal-TARA water testing Kits and Jal-TARA water Filter developed are being used for testing and treating water across rural India. This unique initiative involving women self help groups in Bundelkhand region helps to provide ‘clean and safe water for the community. Her efforts have considerable reduced morbidity through waterborne diseases in this region.

The award was conferred upon her by the President of India, Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil at the National Conference on Showcasing Cutting Edge Science & Technology by Women in New Delhi today.

Dr. Vijaya Lakshmi, a Doctorate in Chemistry form Sri Venkateswara University, Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, began her journey as environmental scientist 18 years ago at Development Alternatives. She is one of those rare scientists who have successfully made the journey from experiment and innovation in a research laboratory to applications in the field.

Early in her career, she realized the criticality of using scrupulous scientific methods to identify, analyze and solve practical problems. She then applied frontline knowledge to solving the environmental problems of the village communities, the women and the poor. Issues concerning water quality, its health impacts especially on women and children intrigued her the most. She took upon the challenge of demystifying the science of water quality testing and purification and decided to make sure that the common person has access to simple, reliable, easy to operate tools. The Jal-TARA water testing Kits and Jal-TARA water Filter were developed which have now become very popular and are being used especially for testing millions of water samples and for treating gallons of water across India.

She has meticulously built up a team and a facility at Development Alternatives, a technology oriented voluntary organization that is recognized worldwide for its innovation and large scale dissemination of science based techniques for raising the quality of the environment while providing day to day solutions for poor communities, particularly in safe drinking water. Due to her commitment the common person now has access to simple, reliable, easy to operate water-testing and purification tools.

She is currently piloting a unique initiative involving Women Self Help Groups from 10 villages from Niwari and Jhansi districts of Bundelkhand region to provide ‘clean and safe water for all and always’. The region has been declared drought hit as monsoons have failed for the fourth successive year, thus resulting in increased drudgery for women as they have to travel long distances to fetch water which is often not so clear or safe. By engaging women in forming village water committees, she and her team trained the women and youth to test their water and install the Jal-TARA water filter to treat the bacterial contamination with is the main problem in the region. Currently, women in these villages are enjoying the new found freedom from drudgery and diverting their efforts for productive employment such as food processing, poultry rearing etc. to raise their income levels.

In 3 villages in the Bundelkhand region, Bramohri Shital, Kachipura and Madore the women are involved in collecting user charges for the water supplied, besides installing water meters to keep the check on excessive consumption and applying user charges as per the quantities drawn. In Mandore, while the water enterprise is set up by the community, in Kachipura the water enterprise is set by a local entrepreneur. Women Self Help Groups are playing a major role in regulating all these efforts. In partnership with communities, Dr. Vijaya Lakshmi is all set to reach out to the Women Self Help Groups in the rest of the villages in the 13 districts of Bundelkhand region. Her efforts have considerably reduced morbidity through waterborne diseases in this region.

Courtesy: Press Information Bureau (www.pib.nic.in)