It took the deaths of her husband and son to force authorities to supply it to the slum she calls home.
“They died because of the water problem, nothing else,” said Devi, 40, as she recalled how a brawl over a water tanker carrying clean drinking water in March killed her two relatives and finally prompted the government to drill a tube-well.
“Now things are better. But earlier…the water used to be rusty, we could not even wash our hands or feet with that kind of water,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in Delhi.
India is “suffering from the worst water crisis in its history”, threatening hundreds of millions of lives and jeopardising economic growth, a government think-tank report said in June.
From the northern Himalayas to the sandy, palm-fringed beaches in the south, 600 million people–nearly half India’s population–face acute water shortage, with close to 200,000 dying each year from polluted water.
“The water was like poison,” said Devi, who still relies on the tanker for drinking water, outside her one-room shanty in the chronically water-stressed Wazirpur area of the capital Delhi.
“It is better now, but still it is not completely drinkable. It is alright for bathing and washing the dishes.” Water pollution is a major challenge, the report said, with nearly 70% of India’s water contaminated, impacting three in four Indians and contributing to 20% of the country’s disease burden. Yet only one-third of its wastewater is currently treated, meaning raw sewage flows into rivers, lakes and ponds–and eventually gets into the groundwater.
Loss of livelihood
“Poor quality of water–that is loss of livelihood. You fall ill because you don’t have access to safe drinking water, because your water is contaminated.”
“The burden of not having access to safe drinking water, that burden is greatest on the poor and the price is paid by them.”
Frothy lakes and rivers
In Bengaluru–once known as the “city of lakes” and now doomed to go dry–the Bellandur Lake bursts into flames often, sending plumes of black smoke into sky.
The Yamuna river that flows through New Delhi can be seen covered under a thick, detergent-like foam on some days. On other days, faeces, chemicals and ashes from human cremations float on top, forcing passers-by to cover their mouths and noses against the stench.
That does not stop 10-year-old Gauri, who lives in a nearby slum, from jumping in every day. With no access to water, it is the only way to cool herself down during India’s scorching summers, when temperatures soar to 45 Celsius (113 Fahrenheit).
“There usually is not enough water for us to take a shower, so we come here,” said Gauri, who only gave her first name, as she and her brother splashed around in the filthy river. “It makes us itchy and sick, but only for some time. We are happy to have this, everyone can use it.”
ICCI called upon the government to issue directives for taking urgent measures to address issue of water crisis
T2F organises second session of discussion series, Maa Dharti Project, ‘Paani Kaa Chakar - The Cycle of Water’
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