In drought or deluge, water woes a constant

Aug 05, 2013, 08:00 IST | A correspondent

It's the proverbial choice between hell and high water for tribals staying in these villages of Jawhar, Mokhada, Vikramgad, Wada, Shahapur talukas in rural Thane, which experience drought for most months of the year.

When they do receive water, it is unfit for drinking, and causes water-borne diseases.

In its extensive series last year, MiD DAY had exposed the abject living conditions of the villagers, as well as the corruption involved in construction of bunds for storing water (‘Rs 25 crore spent on 382 bunds, but no sign of water’ May 30, 2012).

Un-well: The tribes in this areas have to survive on contaminated rainwater that gets collected in their streams and wells. They have to use this water for farming, washing and even drinking

The villages have witnessed heavy rainfall since June this year, and most of the streams and bunds are brimming. However, the surge has brought with it a sharp rise in cases of waterborne disease, especially among children who are malnourished.

The disturbing rise has been witnessed most notably in Jawhar and Mokhada talukas.

Speaking to MiD DAY, Ravi Shivade, vice president for Shiv Sena, Thane (rural) said, “The tribes in these areas are deprived of potable drinking water six months in the year: from January to March, they face water scarcity, and between April and June, they face drought-like situation. In the remaining six months, they have to survive on contaminated rainwater that gets collected in their streams and wells.

They have to use this water for drinking, washing and even farming. This only aggravates their problem, exposing the elderly and the newborns to waterborne diseases, which are common in the monsoon. The children who are malnourished are at a higher risk of falling sick in this period.”

Shivade added, “Not one of the remote tribal villages or padas has a single water tap or access to potable water tanks. They depend on the wells, streams or borewell water, the water in which goes untested by the local administration. They are never tested for the presence of dangerous bacteria or organisms, forget testing for any chemical components or pesticides.”

Indavi Tulpule, an activist associated with Shramik Mukti Sangathan (SMS), said, “While efforts are being taken to check water for harmful organisms, it is never tested for contamination of chemicals and pesticides, which are used rampantly by these tribes for cultivation of cash crops. Stream water is used for farming, drinking and other purposes, as they have no other source of drinking water.” 

Why the kids are starving
Factors affecting families in villages
>> Early marriage of tribal girls at 13-14 years of age
>> Sparing of no time gap between birth of successive children
>> Lack of awareness about methods of family planning. If a male child is not born in the first few births, more children are conceived
>> Newborn child is left under care of older siblings, causing lapses in feeding schedule
>> Lack of balanced diet at home

Food for thought : Two-and-a-half-year-old Nivruti Dhumade’s parents leave for their daily work, leaving her in the custody of a young girl; this means that Nivruti is denied her mother’s milk on a daily basis. Doctors have said that Nivruti is suffering from moderate malnourishment. Pic/Atul Kamble

>> Unhygienic living condition
>> No potable water and sanitation
>> Alcohol addiction among parents; often, no cooking is done
>> Anganwadi supplies are inadequate for kids
>> Belief in tantriks for treatment
>> Unwillingness to stay in hospital for long periods for complete treatment

Problems at the administrative level
>> Absence of supervising authorities to check if Anganwadi workers and self-help groups are functioning properly
>> Lack of accountability at administrative levels
>> Lack of checks and measures to ensure that the schemes announced by the government at central and state level are implemented in the villages
>> Long hours of wait at rural hospitals and primary health centres encourages parents to opt for alternative methods of treatment when their wards falls sick
>> Distance between villages and poor transportation facilities resulting in few site visits by authorities  

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