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Trekking 3 km to fetch a pail of water

Trekking 3 km to fetch a pail of water
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Water blues stalk 13,556 habitations; Acute scarcity conditions indicate a gruelling summer ahead A Ravindra Seshu Hyderabad: Some 30 lakh women...

Water blues stalk 13,556 habitations; Acute scarcity conditions indicate a gruelling summer ahead

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A Ravindra Seshu

Hyderabad: Some 30 lakh women in the state are trekking an average distance of 3km a day to fetch a pot of drinking water. The failing water sources have rendered them vulnerable to summer hardships in as many as 13,556 habitations. A P Buchamma, a woman from Nandigam village under Bhadrachalam mandal in Khammam district, has to walk more than a km to fetch a pitcher of water for a day.

It is not only the experience of Butchamma alone. It has been part of the daily routine for all the women living in the habitations with either no drinking water source or partially dried up source. A According to a survey, 30 lakh women in the habitations affected by scarcity conditions in the state have been exposed to untold hardships in the process of fetching water from the irrigation wells or other sources such as rivers and rivulets in the neighborhood.

Indeed, it sounds strange. A state with 940 mm of average rainfall getting caught in the pincer grips of acute drinking water scarcity right from March to the end of June. A Every year, with the arrival of summer, the woes of women get multiplied in rural habitations of the state, more so in the upland areas of Telangana, Rayalasema and north coastal districts.

There are heated debates in the State Assembly about the drinking water crisis prevailing in different parts of the state. The government announces several drinking water projects to tide over the crisis, a few foundation stones too have been laid. But till the next summer, there would be hardly any headway in the implementation of the schemes. Long queues of women with pitchers on their heads are a common sight in many parts of the state.

There are no easy answers to explain this paradox. One aspect of the problem is the age-old government tendency to cite statistics to exonerate itself without bothering to study the ground realities. And statistics, as they say, hide more than they reveal. A case in point is the provision of drinking water through tube wells. According to government figures, the 998 habitations in Ananthapur, 1042 in Kadapa, 1363 in Chittoor, 1210 in Mahabubnagar, 1024 in Adilabad, 1713 in Warangal, 1252 in Medak, 801 in Nellore and 502 in Khammam district have been facing drinking water problem and water sources in these habitations got dried up.

Interestingly, in a number of areas, tubewells stop yielding water during summer (sometimes even before this) due to a seasonal problem known in departmental parlance as 'draw down'. The problem occurs when the water table falls below the level to which the tube well has been dug. Sometimes, however, this 'draw down' problem can be attributed to the fact that the requisite length of pipes has not been used.

Remedying this problem ensures a windfall for departmental staff as huge amounts of money are allocated to procuring additional pipes that reach the water table. About 16,000 bore wells out of total of 3.5 lakh bore wells in the state had been defunct due to the falling of ground water levels.

wat3When The Hans India contacted, Rural Water Supply secretary Vikasraj said that the government evolved an action plan to supply drinking water to these 13,556 habitations. He said that local committees had been constituted with the local people and officials of RWS to address the problem. "The RWS officials were directed to make repairs of bore wells on war-footing and supply water through tanks where water source got dried", he added.

The water consumption of people in scores of villages in the affected regions was much less than the WHO norm of 40 litres per capita per day (LPCD) in summer. The state government is, in fact, in the process of adopting the new norm of 80 lpcd, which will add to the list of 'not covered habitations'.

Ensuring that these villages are covered is important. What the figures don't reveal is the fact that a large number of tubewells are defunct. If there are 10 tube wells in a village, it's likely that only four are functioning. But the official statistics list all the 10 tube wells in fully functional status. As a result, as figures are juggled to 'prove' that "all is well on the drinking water front", the goal of providing drinking water to all remains a mirage. The number of people without access to drinking water is growing thanks to a burgeoning population and proliferation of new settlements.

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