Banda. In Raksi village, 28-year old Kuntaliya is awake at 4 a.m. Every morning, like clockwork, Kuntaliya starts her day in the wee hours after which she begins a 1-kilometre walk to the nearest handpump. Every time, there is already a beeline of anxious women waiting their turn.
In the rocky Bundelkhand region, the summer is a particularly difficult time for residents. Not only is the monsoon often scarce, the low levels of groundwater become more apparent during this time when the demand for water increases. In Banda, villages that are located under the rocky hills, are already facing a shortage of water sources.
‘Each day we spend hours standing in the line. Once our turn comes, then begins the walk back home. All this effort for just one bucket of water. If you want to fill another bucket, you have to get in the line again,’ says Kuntaliya. Another woman, Phoola explains the inconvenience, ‘Everyone is needed in the fields at this time of the year. It’s the harvest season. Instead, we spend hours in line for water.’
In Raksi, a new pipeline was laid down in 2010. ‘Since the pipeline was overground, it was in a matter of a few days that the pipeline broke. It hasn’t been repaired since then,’ says Kuntaliya. The pipeline was a blessing for people like Kuntaliya and Phoola whose houses are on the upper part of the mountain.
In Pauhaar village, there is only one functioning handpump that caters to almost 150 households. For Janki who lives here, it’s not only the hours she spends filling up buckets but also a constant concern for the health of her children. ‘Kids don’t listen. There is a river nearby and when they are playing outdoors, they just drink from the river instead of waiting for the handpump to be free,’ she says. The village head Chhedilal says that he gave an application to the concerned authorities asking for another handpump. But this was 6 months ago and there has been no follow up either from the village head or from any officer.
Assistant Engineer at the Banda Jal Nigam Anchal Kumar Gupta said that the Department has not received any budget for repair work and maintenance and there isn’t any money for setting up new handpumps in the district. He had no information about the application that the Pauhaar village head claimed to have submitted to the Department.
It is worrisome to know that in a region like Bundelkhand where depleting levels of ground water have been a cause for concern for long, there seems to be no separate budget allocated for solving a problem like drinking water. According to a WaterAid report, since the drought in 2003 several sources of drinking water have dried up in Bundelkhand. While wells and ponds bore the brunt of the drought, less surface water led to lowering of the water table. This has led to several handpumps rendered unusable. Even today, several villages in Banda, Chitrakoot, and Mahoba are lined with handpumps that have stopped working.
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