The Severe Water Shortage in Bundelkhand
(3BL Media/Justmeans) – Bundelkhand in central India is divided between the states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, with the larger area lying in the latter. It is one of the most poorly endowed regions of India, characterised by hard rocky terrain with poor soil cover and low ground water availability. The main problems faced by the people here are soil erosion and the shortage of water for irrigation and domestic purposes. Further, climatic uncertainties have resulted in frequent droughts drastically reducing the agricultural yields. This is a tribal area too, and the shortage of water here has severely threatened their quality of life.
Over the years the ground water issues in Bundelkhand have become critical and depressing. The demand for the need and use of water, both for homes and farming has increased, yet the level of ground water is diminishing at an alarming speed. On average, the region has had a rainfall decline of about 850 mm. The successive years of drought have resulted in water scarcity over the last two decades.
Unfortunately, the open wells that are source of drinking water to many villages are prone to bacterial contamination, especially during the rainy seasons. The use of excess fertilizer for better yield of crops adds to nitrate level in the ground water. All this means that less clean and safe water is available. It has had a knock on effect on the women and children who now have to walk miles to fetch water from distant sources. This has led to social costs with absences from school and work, including health and economic costs due to loss of wages.
One not-for-profit working hard in this drought-prone region is Haritika. Set up in 1994, it has helped find solutions towards the management of natural resources here. With the support of a variety of partners from the World Bank to the Indian government at district, state and national levels and to select national, and international NGOs, it has been successful in creating and implementing sustainable projects in the villages to make a huge impact on the standard of living of the villagers.
Haritika is striving to improve the lives of people here, to help them become self-reliant. It has been continuously exploring opportunities to partner with relevant organizations and agencies to achieve its vision—for example, constructing 27 water harvesting structures such as small dams with funding from Water-aid and Vegfam in surrounding villages. However, the problems here are far from over. The acute shortage of drinking and sanitation is severely impacting life, especially children and the disabled. Simple things are tough, such as girls at school who need water during their menstrual cycle for hygiene management; because there is no water, they don’t go to school. Haritika is still looking for partners to help create a just, enlightened, healthy and democratic Bundelkhand.
Photo Credit: Haritika