Allahabad: In villages on banks of Ganga, Yamuna, people starve for water - Hindustan Times
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Allahabad: In villages on banks of Ganga, Yamuna, people starve for water

By, Prayagraj
May 23, 2024 05:20 AM IST

Elections have come and gone, governments formed and reformed, but generations of people have passed away whole lives full of struggle to get a pail of water, here.

Going by mythology, Ganga descended to Earth from the matted hair of Lord Shiva. Located close to where the Ganga and Yamuna meander, a region in the name of the God—Shankargarh – still struggles for water.

Women and kids line up at a hand-pump in Belhat village of Koraon. (HT)
Women and kids line up at a hand-pump in Belhat village of Koraon. (HT)

Elections have come and gone, governments formed and reformed, but generations of people have passed away whole lives full of struggle to get a pail of water, here.

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The government’s ambitious Har Ghar Jal Scheme, which has made much progress in the Bundelkhand region of UP, is yet to show the same kind of results in this region falling in the Allahabad Parliamentary constituency.

Under this scheme, the construction of an RO water plant of 90 MLD capacity is underway. Work started on July 19, 2023, but is expected to be completed only by January 18, 2025.

The plant is located in Pakri Sewar village, in Urwa development block, on the banks of Ganga.

With the estimated cost of the project being 9,002 crore, villages of Manda, Urwa, Meja and Koraon development blocks of the region are to benefit from the project.

Under the scheme, pure drinking water is to be provided to 453 villages of all these four development blocks. Under the mission, pure drinking water is to be provided to 8,61,453 people of the parched region by covering 1,17,816 houses with piped water supply being made over a total area of 4,114 km.

However, till now, not a single house has received water supply.

No wonder, Anarkali, 45, a mother of five and a resident of Bhelaon village of Shankargarh development block here, begins her day trudging 2 km under the blazing sun to a deep well to get water for her household. Her teenaged daughter and women of the neighbouring houses accompany her, bringing back plastic containers filled with potable water.

“Every summer, all women of my village do this as the wells and the handpumps run dry and we have no choice but to fetch water from far away wells and even forage from natural rocky crevices to meet daily needs. We have been doing this for years now,” said Anarkali, standing under the scorching sun with a heavy container filled with water on her head.

Anarkali’s Bhelaon village with a population of 2,200 is part of Prayagraj’s trans-Yamuna area located around 40km from Prayagraj city.

“Politicians have been promising a permanent solution to our water woes, but nothing has happened. Our lives seem trapped in an endless loop where we dread summers,” adds Nanni Devi, another woman of the village. In this entire rocky region, falling under the Allahabad parliamentary constituency, water is a priceless commodity.

No wonder, the story of water shortage repeats itself in village after village like Lakhanpur, Biharia, Janwa, Nauriha Uperhar, Juhi, Naribari, Aamgodar, Taktai and Kalyanpur among others in the Shankargarh region.

Bablu Singh, Gram Pradhan of Garha Katra village, said: “Despite hand-pumps and even tubewells installed in the area and Samooh Peyajal Yojna implemented here, the arrangements are grossly inadequate compared to the water needs of locals. Everyone here wants a reliable water supply, and this is the only issue for us every election.”

Assistant development officer (panchayat) Hardev Patel admitted to the existing water problem in the area and said that the issue of water crisis in 15 odd villages of the area had been raised with senior officials and like past years requests for water tankers had also been made.

The piped water supply scheme is still to reach the various villages of Shankargarh, which has a population of 1,70,637 under 76 gram panchayats. President of Gram Pradhan Sangh, Pushpraj Singh, said that it is a very important and ambitious scheme of the government, but due to slow pace, not a single connection has been given till date. “Water pipes are being laid haphazardly, and till now, not a single water tank has been built in Shankargarh. Only boundary walls have been constructed at the designated sites of the tanks,” he claimed. No different is the story in Jasra development block of Bara tehsil located around 30km from Sangam city. Here too, villages like Ganne, Harro and Lohgara face acute water shortage every summer.

“Villagers walk long distances to collect water for households in this entire area. Four to six hours a day are spent on this task. With very few water sources like wells and hand-pumps, getting potable water is a prime concern of every household,” said Mukesh Upadhyay, Gram Pradhan of Tikari Kalan village of Jasra. Residents of Prayagraj’s trans-Yamuna villages of Koraon tehsil and southern part of Manda development block of Meja tehsil—all located 50km to 80km from Sangam city— are also battling this annual summer challenge. “Villages located in Upraudh and Pal areas that lack water bodies are the worst hit. People walk long distances to get water from deep wells and handful of handpumps still functioning,” said Shivkak, Gram Pradhan, Devghat village of Koraon. Piped water continues to remain a dream for houses here. In some villages, water pipes have been laid and have even begun to rot but water is yet to flow from them, he added.

Here too multiple villages like Latifpur, Jamuva, Pura Ruchai and Devghat, Nai Basti, etc are facing acute water shortage.

While a dozen small rivers present in the area like Sevati, Lapri, Gadhiya, Baburhiya are running dry, out of the 3,876 handpumps of the area, 21 India Mark hand-pumps are awaiting re-boring, while 64 hand-pumps await repair for the past six months, another 53 have been lying in disrepair for the past three months. There are another 179 that have been lying kaput for a month.

Out of the block’s 755 ponds, merely 102 have adequate water, 375 are dry, while the remaining have some water in them. As many as 172 villages do not even have a pond or government tubewell here.

In Manda too, residents of villages like Sonbarsa, Kudar, Newari, Parseedhi, Kurhara and Dhanawal are facing similar problems. Residents of the area, including Ramashankar, Ramlal, Ram Bahadur, Vishwanath all shared tales of women and men crowding the few available deep wells of the area for water and expressed unhappiness with political leaders for failing to solve their biggest common problem till date.

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