New Government, Old Task: Provision of drinking water in rural areas of Bihar

By Amritanj Indiwar

Patna, Nov. 11 (ANI): The Bihar Government has been claiming that it has been investing endlessly on schemes to provide safe drinking water. The sole aim of the National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) is to provide safe drinking water to all the villages.

Additionally the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyaan has a target to provide safe drinking water to all the villages and towns of India. A number of seminars and workshops are being held at various places to address the issue.

Agencies and organisations are established to implement the policies and plans of the government, but the work related to providing safe drinking water does not translate on the ground.

Today more than 80 percent people of this country are forced to drink water that is unhygienic and high in arsenic, fluoride and iron content. This kind of water proves fatal and can land a person in hospital.

People from cities and urban areas are generally well off and have access to safe drinking water whether in terms of mineral water or water purifiers. A water supply system is in place in every city.

The awareness regarding consumption of safe drinking water in urban areas is high and hence the people find out means to purify the water before drinking for example by the use of chlorine, so as to stay healthy and free from any water related problems.

At the same time, the real India, that is the villages of India are devoid of any such modern systems or water supplies. At times there are water tanks which have dried up and are in a state of disuse. While an urban citizen buys mineral water to drink, his counterpart in villages have no option but to drink the coloured contaminated water.

The colour of the water signifies the presence of arsenic, fluoride, iron and other harmful chemicals. The hand pumps in the villages are not up to the mark, the condition of government hand pumps is pathetic.

On an average, the hand pumps have been dug down 40-60 ft. deep and the ones by the Public Health Engineering (PHE) Department have been dug down only 60-80 ft. deep. However the water till the second layer is polluted and dangerous.

Charkha spoke to Pankaj Kumar Singh, Hari Shankar Pathak and Bhushan Singh from Hussepur village and to Harendra Prasad, Vinod Jaiswal, Hasrat Ali, Pramod Bhagat and Ramchandra Bhagat from Chandkewari village, both part of Sahebganj sub division of Muzaffarpur district in Bihar. They informed Charkha that two years back the PHE had placed two hand pumps but they were not dug down deep enough.

As a result, the water that comes out is yellow in colour and unsafe for drinking, but the villagers have no option but to consume this water and invite diseases. On the other hand, more than 20 wells have been beautified in the village by improving upon lining, but chlorination has not been carried out and hence the water is not potable.

The water from these wells are generally used by the farmers to bathe their animals and for other purposes. It was shocking to know that there were 10-12 government hand pumps in the village but most of them were in a state of disuse and even more alarming is that the people of the village had lack of awareness regarding the importance of safe drinking water.

More than 60 Harijan families reside in the Sohansi village under Chandkewari Panchayat. These families have access to one odd well which is unfit for use. Though the government has installed hand pumps at a depth of 60 feet but the water that comes out of these hand pumps is contaminated and unsuitable for consumption; also there is no alternate source. The people of this village suffer from ailments like cancer, asthma, jaundice and other water borne diseases.

Rajkumar Paswan, a resident, says, “It is the responsibility of the government to provide safe drinking water but the hand pumps have not been dug down to adequate depth.”

If water is kept overnight in a vessel, by morning the sedimentation and impurities which settle at the bottom can be seen.

According to a recent report, there has been a rise in the arsenic levels of water found in fifteen districts on either side of the Ganges and that is why there is the threat of cancer in these districts.

There has been a sharp rise in the arsenic levels in the water found in 57 development blocks located on the banks on Ganga. The report also suggests that due to increased levels of arsenic there is a rise in the cases of gangrene and cancers of kidney and liver in these areas.

As per the Public Health Department, a high content of arsenic has been found in water from the districts of Bhojpur, Buxar, Samastipur, Bhagalpur, Vaishali, Katihaar, Chhapra, Munger, Darbhanga and Khagaria.

In a water sample from village Irael Chappra in Samastipur district, arsenic content was 2100 parts per billion, which is much above the danger mark of 10 parts per billion set by the World Health Organisation. It is not just Bihar, the situation in many other states with respect to the availability of potable water is worse.

Due to lack of initiative by the government lakhs of citizens of this country do not have access to potable water.

The scarcity of drinking water should be a national issue and be debated openly in forums and seminars. Why is it that such an important health related aspect has been ignored?

The need of the hour is to create awareness in the minds of people regarding safe drinking water and regularising the installations of hand pumps in the villages.

The Charkha Development Communication Network feels that provisioning of chlorine and TCL (bleaching) powder is an urgent step that should be taken by the government in addition to cleaning of water tanks and ensuring water supply pipelines in villages. (ANI)

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