Thursday, May 22, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Where milk & water cost Rs 14 a litre
Villagers forced to drink ‘unfit’ water in Mansa, Bathinda
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Women queue up for water at Kot Shamir village, near Bathinda, on Wednesday.
Women queue up for water at Kot Shamir village, near Bathinda, on Wednesday.
— Tribune photo Kulbir Beera

Bathinda, May 21
It may sound absurd, but it is true. The residents of Punjab — the land of five rivers — are going thirsty. The gravity of the situation can be judged from the fact that the retail prices of milk and potable water are same — Rs 14 a litre.

A survey conducted by The Tribune revealed that the water supply to almost all the villages falling in Bathinda and Mansa districts is far from satisfactory. Water storage and supply tanks have been built in various villages, supply pipes have been laid and employees have been posted to take care of the system but water has become a rarity.

With water becoming a rare commodity, the villagers are forced to drink underground water, which has been declared unfit for human consumption. It is even harmful for agriculture use because of its high fluoride content. In most of these villages, the water is supplied to the residents daily, for periods ranging between 15 minutes and one hour, depending on the availability of water and power supply.

At Chughe Kalan village, about 20 km from here, the villagers said they did not get piped water daily. They said the average water supply frequency was four times a week, for a period of 30 minutes to one hour. They said they get sufficient water for their daily needs on the day of the supplies, but during the period of “Bandi” (when the water supply from the canals to the water works are cut on a turn basis) the taps go dry.

They expressed satisfaction at the quality of water and pointed out that more than 80 per cent households had installed booster pumps to suck out more water from the supply pipes. “Without these pumps, we would not get even a bucket of water for drinking as the pressure of water being pumped was too low,” admitted a resident, who did not wish to be named.

Residents of Dayalpura village of this district have been waiting for the day when the water works located there would start functioning and taps in their dwellings would ooze out potable water. The water works was set up here about two years ago but it could not start functioning for reasons best known to authorities concerned.

As the mercury continues to rise the scarcity of potable water becomes acute. Due to insufficient supply of piped water supply, the people of rural and urban areas have been left with no option but than to consume unfit underground water or to quench their thirst with “bottled water” which is now available in the shops in rural areas.

The residents of Kot Shamir village pointed out water is supplied only once daily and that too for a “few minutes”. They added that even the timing of the water supply was not scheduled . They added that they used the piped water only for drinking. The underground water was for washing clothes and taking bath. Even the cattle were being given unfit underground water.

Mr Sukhwinder Singh Aulakh, former MLA, Mansa, pointed out that about 15 water works were lying idle in this area as the authorities concerned had failed to make them functional.

Official sources said about 30 water works were undergoing repairs and the water supply to the villages would be ensured after the “repair work of the filter media is carried out”. A cross section of officials or the rural water supply wing of the Public Health Department pointed out that while some water works could not be started because of shortage of funds, others were non-functional because of absence of power connection.

They added that water supply in rural and urban areas was irregular because the unscheduled and unannounced power cuts had been playing havoc with the supply system. The authorities had no answer to the query whether the department would be able to supply adequate water during the summer month.


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