Where Every Drop Counts: Learn About A Village In Tripura Where It Takes An Hour To Fill A Water-Pot
Translated from Kokborok by Hamari Jamatia
I am a resident of a village, located in the interiors of Tripura, called Chailengta ST Colony. It is nestled in the Longtharai Valley which is known for its beautiful hills and forests. But, whereas my village is about 100 km away from the capital city of Agartala, the distance in terms of the access to development is much much more. From time immemorial, the village has suffered from an acute lack of drinking water.
Even today, villagers are forced to collect water from small “wells” at the bottom of the hill. These wells are just natural holes located on the rocky side of a small ankle-deep stream. These wells collect underground water which the people use for drinking and cooking purposes. The circumference of these holes are so tiny that the women who fetch water use a small bowl to collect the water and pour it into their pots. On an average, a woman spends many hours a day to fill a a few pots for her family.
Firstly, the womenfolk have to walk some distance to reach the wells, then they have to wait in queue for their turn, only then can they access whatever little water is available that day. I spoke to a fellow villager whose name is Briha Laxmi Debbarma. Her house is on top of a small hill. Every day she carries her pots to the wells and collects water for her family. She stands in a queue near the wells waiting for her turn. It easily takes her anywhere from half an hour to one whole afternoon to collect enough water. “The water is collected on a first come first serve basis. Sometimes fights break out between the people about who came first. Not only that, once we take the water home, we have to boil it so that it is fit for drinking,” she says.
The way to the set of wells is far and so often you will see mothers herding their young children with them since they can’t leave them unattended at home. It puts a lot of additional pressure on the womenfolk who spend many hours a day just arranging for water.
The woes only worsen during the rainy season when the level of the stream rises and the wells disappear under the swollen muddy waters. On such days the villagers, numbering 70 families, are solely dependent on rain water. Kartik Laxmi Debbarma, another resident of the village, says that they collect the rain water in tanks to use it for the monsoon months. "We have to put medicines in the water to remove the impurities. Once the water from the stream recedes, and our tanks are emptied, we go back to drinking water out of the wells," she says.
Some years ago the villagers had enjoyed a short respite from the water shortage. The government had installed a water pipeline at the village and supplied them with good and clean water. However, the water supply connection stopped working after a year and people were forced to go back to collecting water from the wells. Apparently, the person in charge of taking care of the water supply stopped coming to the village. Since then, the villagers have repeatedly demanded the government to fix the problem but so far no such step has been taken.
There is another problem when it comes to the water issue. The village is divided into two types of residences. Many people live near the foothills and the rest of the people live on the hillside. During monsoons when rains slash the area, the water flowing from the hill carry with them the dirt of the houses set up there. Many people in the hills have kaccha toilets and so the water that flows from the hills down to the foothills gets severely contaminated. This poses a huge risk to the population as a whole who fall sick with cold and cough. Considering that there are no good roads in the village, sick people find it difficult to access any medical facilities.
In view of the above issues I hope that the administration looks into our water woes and reinstalls our water supply.
This article has been created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.