How three handpumps revolutionised Rural Water Supplies: the India Mark II

How Three Handpumps Revolutionised Rural Water Supply1974: UNICEF reviewed their water supply programme in India. The results were shocking: of the tens of thousands of wells drilled over the previous seven years, 75% were not supplying water.

In the new publication “How Three Handpumps Revolutionised Rural Water Supplies” from RWSN, Erich Baumann explains how three handpumps, the India Mark II, the Afridev, and the Zimbabwe Bush Pump were developed and Sean Furey explores what lessons can be learned for scaling up WASH technologies today.

In the mid 1960s, drought ravaged India, and the Government of India asked UNICEF for help with improving access to water through borehole drilling. In the following years, the emergency drilling campaign evolved into a broader national programme to improve rural water supplies, but the attention was focused on the drilling and the boreholes. No one gave the hand-pumps that went on them much thought. That all changed in 1974.

Indian hand-pumps at that time were made of cast iron and modelled on simple family pumps that had been used in Europe and North America in the 19th and early 20th century, (but had  since been relegated in those contexts to garden ornaments with the advent of piped water systems).  They were never intended to be used for 10 hours a day and support the needs of as many as 250 people each.

India MKII in India

Learning from failure, UNICEF and the Government of India set up one of the great unsung technology programmes of the 20th century. Along with an Indian manufacturer, Richard & Cruddas, and a number of NGO partners, the search for a new community hand-pump began.

An anonymous engineer in the town of Sholupur developed a robust lever action pump, which became the foundation of what has become the most widespread hand-pump in the world: the India Mark II.

Since its development in the 1970s the India Mark II (there was no Mark I) achieved that rarest of things in the WASH sector: scale.  It was probably a combination of factors around the strong collaboration between the public sector, NGOs, manufacturers and international bodies (UNICEF). It is not known how many exist today around the world, but it is in the millions, and there is thriving hand-pump industry in India to this day.

Tomorrow: the Afridev

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