Mumbai may not feel parched just yet, but the drought-like situation is inching closer to it from the far removed hinterlands in the eastern part of the state. In Shahapur taluka in Thane district, water woes are beggaring villagers.
Taramai Pawar, who lives in Khardi village in Shahapur, travels for nearly an hour by the local to Khadavli once every four days. She carries with her a heap of dirty clothes that need washing. Many others in the village — Laxmi Dighe, for instance — travel by locals to do the chores meant to be done in their households. Dighe travels for an hour to Kasara railway station, where she draws water from the public tap at the station and brings it back to her home in the village.
In the nearby Jarandi village, and many others in the vicinity some 80 kilometres from Mumbai, the situation is no different. In a scoffing paradox, these waterless villages are surrounded with three dams — Vaitarna, Bhatsa and Tansa. All these three dams provide water to Mumbai, but have nothing for the villages they flank, whose dwellers must depend on water tankers well beyond their means. The tankers charge
Rs 5 per can.
Pawar said the dearth is forcing them on their knees before others. “When we travel in the local to Khadavli river, passengers treat us like beggars. They think we are unauthorised travellers. We can’t even blame them, our condition is such that we appear like ragamuffins, a bundle of clothes on our head, all of us desperate to get on the train. Water scarcity has forced us to step out of our villages in this manner,” she said.
Another villager Vanitha Deshmukh said that some of the railway staffers at Kasara station look down on them when they fill water at the station. “When we go to fill water at the station, the staff there starts complaining. Sometimes, they shut off the water supply to the tap. But we manage. The railway train guards are very helpful. They stop the train for extra time as they know there are women who are carrying water and need time to get down,” said Deshmukh.
Somnath Manje, another local, said villagers have stopped hosting functions because of water scarcity. “We order tankers that cost Rs 1,200-1,500 each if we have a wedding in the village. For our daily needs, we either go to our relatives’ villages where they have water or to the dam that’s nearly 10 kilometres from our village,” said Manje.
Sitabai Misal of Jarandi village said that on Friday, after three to four months, she didn’t have to walk for miles to get water. Yuva Sena, the Shiv Sena’s youth wing, provided the villagers with water in plastic tanks, which would last them much longer.
One of the villagers, Shivaji Bhoir, was grateful that the water wasn’t dumped into the wells. Many political parties that bring water tankers to the villages pour the water in wells that are filthy, turning drinking water turbid.
However, the villagers see the respite as just that: a short-lived relief. They fear that all these arrangements, the political interventions, are temporary.
Asked how long his party would continue to provide water to villagers, Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray said, “Till the time the villagers need it, our party will provide them with drinking water, unlike the water given by the state government, which isn’t potable.”
It is still a quick fix for a long-standing problem, villagers said, which doesn’t address the issue of scarcity.