‘Anytime water’ in parched Barmer

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It is scorching hot in the town of Kawas, in India’s Rajasthan state, but Kamla Devi, 35, is not deterred. She has walked to the RO (reverse osmosis) plant to fetch drinking water. “It’s an addiction now,” she says, “to drink this pure water.” Kamla says she doesn’t want to even think that only a few months ago, she used to drink brackish water, which, people from an NGO later told her, was contaminated with fluoride, nitrate and potassium. No wonder, she adds, people in the family had joint pain and gastric trouble.

Standing behind her in the queue, Sua, wife of Bhawra Ram, a tailor, says she feels the difference the RO water has made. “Earlier I had a hard time getting out of bed at 5am due to joint pain, and felt weak in the daytime and often had to rest. But now all that has changed,” she says while swiping her card before the tap begins to fill her can. Every day, she takes two cans of 20 litres each to meet her family’s drinking water needs.

At a similar plant in Bhimda village, Kalpana Kumari, 16, can’t hide her excitement about her father giving up opium. “He consumed it to get relief from joint pains, and then it became an addiction, but last month, there was a de-addiction camp in the village and he vowed to kick it. But I would like to believe that it has also got to do with this water that we now drink,” says the Grade 10 student of Gayatri School, a stone’s throw from the RO plant.

More than 300 villagers in four villages of Barmer district’s Baytoo and Gudhamalani blocks are now using these anytime-water (ATW) prepaid cards to get RO water. The machine dispenses water after the card is placed on the sensor.

In western Rajasthan, women bear the burden of water scarcity — quite literally. Balancing pitchers on head, they walk home from faraway water sources. There is an absence of surface-water resources; rainfall is sparse; and the groundwater, saline and unsuitable for drinking or irrigation. People used to harvest rainwater in traditional underground water-tanks. These tanks with a capacity of 15,000-20,000 litres could stock water for four-five months only. In the summers, people had no option but to rely on groundwater, which had a high fluoride content and harmful pathogens. Getting a water tanker to deliver 5,000 litres cost Rs1,000-1,200 (Dh61-73) but quality was still an issue. Fluoride in water was the reason for a high incidence of dental and skeletal fluorosis in the villages.


More news published at: http://gulfnews.com/news/asia/india/anytime-water-in-parched-barmer-1.1332906