THE PROBLEM OF DRINKING WATER
Looking at the sea the poet wrote ‘water water everywhere not a drop to drink’. Now it applies to the whole country. Two regions –almost the whole of Rajasthan and Kutch, a part of Gujarat have been facing the problem for centuries together. There are no rivers in the area and all the ponds go dry as it does not rain continuously for years. In certain cities like Jaisalmer people even now have big tanks as their roof is. They store water in these if there are rains. There are no lakes, no dams. For miles and miles there are no wells. In certain areas women have to fetch water from long distances. One may not believe it. They have to go six to seven kms for a bucket of water. In certain areas of Rajasthan people would offer you milk- not water because water is a very costly affair. The whole of South suffers from the problem. They have ample of water during rainy season. But the river basins dry after the monsoon. Even during rains the water in the rivers is so polluted with chemicals that do not remain of any use to the villagers and the town folk. It is the grace of God that they can depend upon the underground water. But this is no consolation. With the growth in population more and more water is to be tapped. But nature too has its limitations.
The north has perennial rivers. Of what use are they if the water is not potable. Pollution is gradually increasing. It seems we have accepted our helplessness. If civic bodies do take water from rivers they have to purify it before supplying to the city. Thus many cities tap underground streams to meet the necessity of the people. If there are no rains these too go dry. Moreover these too are affected by much of fertilizers and chemicals in the fields that seep in.
In the rural area, throughout the country we have either wells or ponds or small tanks. They are used both by men and animals. Even human and animal excreta mixes in the water. Thus it is not worth drinking. But there is no way out. The people depend on these sources and suffer from water borne diseases. This scarcity of drinking water in rural areas is basically responsible for infantile mortality, sufferings of women and lower health standard of all.
Huge dams have played a very conspicuous role in the supply of potable water. They have checked the natural flow of river near the dam. Rivers are starved of natural water after the dams. The basins either go dry or are filled with polluted water from cities. Dam water flows through canals according to the government plan. Thus those who live on the banks of rivers do not get drinking water.
NGOs can do a lot in this direction to bring consciousness to the people about the necessity and building the right source of drinking water. They can also pressurize the government to aid small projects in this direction – not simply on papers but in correct implementation.