Perennial Water Crisis in Poonch

By Siddiq Ahmed Siddique

Poonch Nov. 24 (ANI): Water has been a great gift and a blessing to mankind. One can never imagine life without water. However the ratio of water compared to that of land is much more. Around 71% of the earth’s surface is covered with water, out of which only 2.5% of it can be used for drinking.

On earth, 96.5% of the planet’s crust water is found in seas and oceans, 1.7% in groundwater, 1.7% in glaciers and the ice caps of Antarctica and Greenland. Some part can be found in soil as moisture and the rest which comprises of just 1% is used in our daily chores.

Due to the 71% of water composition, earth is normally termed as the blue planet. But the fact is that 1% of the fresh water is not used by humans alone. It is also used by other living beings. That does not mean that nature has not provided us with sufficient water; it definitely has. But due to our own negligence and complacency today water crisis has become a global problem, and India too is combating acute water shortage.

Scientists have warned that by 2025, two third of the world will face severe water crisis. India will in fact be affected earlier, by 2020.

It is an alarming fact that the place which we refer to as paradise on earth – Jammu and Kashmir – has been facing acute water crisis in recent times. However, lakes and waterfalls have been a great gift to this part of the country. While some lakes have the same percentage of water throughout the year, some of them dry up in summers.

Most of the population in Jammu and Kashmir largely depends on these waterfalls and lakes. Poonch, which lies in the border area of Jammu and Kashmir is also largely dependent on the spring waters, waterfalls and lakes. These water bodies are not taken care of, and most of the time, water seeps through the ground which leads to more water shortage in Poonch.

Surankote, which happens to be a tehsil of Poonch has been mapped with such water crisis. During summer the lakes and spring waters dry up, which often leads to major fights among the people in these villages. The months of September and October have always been marked with such problems, where even the animals and birds are deprived of water.

A very remote village called Hill Kaka, in the same tehsil has never seen any proper arrangement of water till date. “The water department (Public Health and Engineering (PHE)) has not taken any strong measures for the water shortage says a resident, Wazir Mohammed. He adds that there is just one place where villagers, cattle and other animals flock for water. The residents fear that this only source that brings respite to the villagers may dry up in the coming days.

To take care of the water crisis in the villages and to bring respite to the villagers, in the year 2009 – 2010 the Accelerated Rural Water Supply Programme was modified as the National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) with major emphasis on ensuring sustainability of water availability in terms of potability, adequacy, convenience, affordability and equity, on a sustainable basis, while also adopting decentralized approach involving PRIs and community organizations.

Though this was a Central Programme, in the year April 2013, it was adopted at the State level as State Water and Sanitation Mission and was carried forward at the District level as District Water and Sanitation Mission and various Committees were set up, in which the Development Commissioner was appointed as the Chairman. In the same manner, at the village level various Committees were set up under the Chairmanship of the village Sarpanch.

But the fact is, these aspirations are just limited to paper and have not been implemented on ground. The villagers have never reaped the benefits on real terms.

A District Technical Analyst, Kapil Bhatti who hails from the Water Conservation and Management Board in Poonch says that their main objective and aim is to deal with water issues and save water. “We educate people and create awareness and motivate them to use water in a desired way.” He hinted that they are just given area specific work. “Additional storage tanks have been installed near the waterfalls and we will keep doing it. Several harvesting tanks have also been set up.” he further added.

India’s water crisis is often attributed to lack of government planning, increased corporate privatization, industrial and human waste and corruption in government. In addition, water scarcity in India is expected to worsen as the overall population is expected to increase to 1.6 billion by year 2050. The Charkha Development Communication Network feels that if the Government utilizes its programmes in a more effective manner and if we citizens pledge to save water, maybe there are chances to solve this water crisis to a great extent.

The views expressed in the article are of Siddiq Ahmed Siddique. (ANI)

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