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Water scarcity pushing people on brink as summer peaks in Kashmir

Amid gunbattles, and an ongoing fight against the coronavirus, Kashmir is facing another problem -- water scarcity.

By Ground report
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water scarcity Kashmir

Amid gun battles, and an ongoing fight against the coronavirus, Kashmir is facing another problem -- water scarcity. Though drinking water pipelines have reached most of the households in the valley, people are still dependent on water from the public taps or in some extreme cases, long treks to natural streams.

Wahid Bhat | Ganderbal

Tahira Bano (27), worries that her daily treks to collect clean water from the mountain springs around her village of Kullan, in Kashmir’s Ganderbal district, are getting tougher. The higher up you go, the cleaner the water is likely to be, but there is a limit to how far one can climb to fetch a pitcher of water,” she told Groundreport.in.

“On days when I’m in a hurry, I make do with water downstream, though I know it is badly contaminated.”

She said during summers, we have to get water from about 2 kilometers away. When there isn’t enough water, I can’t even make food on time or feed my children. Early morning, we leave our homes to fetch water, and other work follows depending upon how much time is consumed in the journey to and from. We work in fields as well, but that depends on how quickly we are able to fetch the water.”

She says that someone in her neighborhood owns a private tube well, which they use occasionally, but she can’t go there every time she needs water.

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“Though we take the liberty to wash clothes and collect water for cattle, it looks odd to go there every time,” she says.

The people in the area have been demanding for a tube well from the local government for a long time now. "This will help solve our water problem. Our village will be able to drink water. We will get to irrigate our crops again,” the women say.

In rural areas of Kashmir valley, collecting water is primarily a woman’s job. It is common to find veiled women, carrying up to four pots some balanced on their heads and walking miles with their children to fetch water several times a day. With their vision obstructed, there are times they trip and drop their pots, forcing them to go back for refills.

Hilal Ahmad, a young man, fetches water in the village after returning from work. But he says it’s up to his sister to make the trek to farther taps. “I, too, fetch water in a bucket but within the village. My sister moves out of the village to get the water,” Ahmed adds.

Rashid Ahmad Wangoo, another villager speaking to Groundreport.in said that collecting water can also cause tension among women. “Sometimes fetching water result in quarrels among women, and relations get strained,” wangoo says. He says this is because of the importance of water, “Where there is water, there is life."

People of different villages across J&K stage protests almost on a daily basis in summers for lack of drinking water and blame the authorities for not taking proper measures to address their grievances.

According to a UN report, of the 2.1 billion people in the world who do not have safely managed water, 844 million do not have access to basic drinking water. This includes 263 million people who have to spend over 30 minutes per trip collecting water from sources outside the house and 159 million who still drink untreated water from surface water sources, such as streams and lakes, says the report.

The National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) had found that household member in rural areas of J&K spends an average of 21 minutes a day to fetch drinking water from a source outside their premises. In addition to that, she spends an average waiting time of 12 minutes a day at the principal source of drinking water.

However, in urban areas of J&K, a person spends 10 minutes to fetch drinking water, in addition to a waiting time of seven minutes.

The figures show the disparity in availability of water between urban and rural localities.

Reported By Wahid Bhat, He is a Journalist based in Jammu and Kashmir.

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