Kallu, a resident of Naraini village in Banda, walks a mile without any footwear to fetch drinking water for his family.
Kallu is blind. His feet have multiple wounds from walking on the rocky path, but he has to do it every day to get water for his three kids, wife and an ailing mother. He is a wedding singer by profession.
He told NewsClick, “There is water in the village, but it is unfit for drinking. The animals use it and we humans use it for washing clothes and other chores. A few people, who did not want to walk to fetch water, used this water last year for drinking, but fell sick and got diarrhoea. I cannot afford the luxury of falling sick nor can any other member of my family. We do not have enough money to get treatment. Even the government hospital is two miles away, and it costs us Rs 10 each to travel to the hospital.”
The Nairani village falls under the Kalinjer block – home to the iconic Kalinjer fort. It has a 20 bedded community health centre – which is supposed to have round the clock availability of doctors – but this claim is rejected by the villagers.
The Banda district administration sends six tankers of water to Kalinjer every day, three in the morning and three in the late evening. The Banda district in the Bundelkhand region is facing a severe water crisis, especially in the rural area. It is one of the worst affected districts of Bundelkhand with temperature climbing up to 50 degrees Celsius, about a week ago.
Banda district has received Rs 21.73 crore for revival of its ponds and wells under the Bundelkhand package. The total estimated cost of the Bundelkhand package is Rs 7, 266 crores and it is meant to implement drought mitigation strategies in the parched region, comprising parts of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. The package was approved in 2009, but the residents are yet to get respite from the drought, forced migration and dying livestock. Nor has the number of farmers’ suicides been reduced.
The groundwater level in all the 13 districts of Bundelkhand has dipped by several feet due to various reasons like bore wells, illegal mining and deforestation. Alarms have been raised many times in last many decades by the experts but to no avail.
D S Bhargava, a retired professor from Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee – an expert on water and river Ganges – said, “The deep boring in Bundelkhand will result in nothing but exploitation of the aquifers which are left deep under the earth. This should be stopped immediately and the government, instead of deep boring, should provide water to the residents by other means. Otherwise, this region will very soon turn into a desert.”
In the drought-hit region, fisticuffs over water have become the order of the day in areas of Bundelkhand like Kabrai, Patha etc. Police had to be called several times to solve these fights.
Urban Drought No One Talks About
Lucknow, the state capital of Uttar Pradesh, is one amongst the water scarcity-hit cities of the state. The water level of the Gomti river, the main source of water in the Lucknow city, has dipped by several feet and the residents of the old Lucknow area are now facing problems with water supply cuts.
An official from the Lucknow Water Board, who looks after the water supply in the city, said on the condition of anonymity: “There has been a fall of about at least 10 feet in the Gomti river water and now we are waiting for a good rain to fill our reservoirs otherwise the problem will intensify.”
Meanwhile, another city that has been hit by water scarcity is Allahabad, which recently hosted the Kumbh festival on the banks of Ganga, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati. The situation has worsened to such an extent that people from areas like Shankargarh have started migrating to other places in the city.
Gufran Ahmad, a senior journalist based in Allahabad, told NewsClick: “The problem of water is so deep in this area that people do not want to marry off their daughters to the boys of a few villages even when these boys are well-settled. Many of the families have permanently moved away from the area and there are also a few ghost villages around.”
Also read: Bengaluru: Once a City of Lakes, Now Faces Water Crisis