Odisha villages suffer from ‘Jeevan without Jal’ as summer kicks in

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The soaring mercury level has left Jemamani Singh, a resident of Baunsagadia village under Khaira block in Balasore district, very worried. These summer days, her day begins by being thwarted by collecting a daily quota of drinking water for her family.

To be the first person to reach the village well (the only one in the area), she makes sure to get up as early as possible in the wee hours of the morning every day. Then she carries buckets in her hands and pots on her head before striding towards the well. Some days luck favors her, and some days she doesn’t. In this case, she must wait three to four hours at the well to obtain her quota of daily needs.

As obvious as it may seem, Jemamani is not alone in this predicament. The whole village faces an acute drinking water crisis, which is a recurring feature.

Jemamani says they have a tube well in the village but the water it distributes is not safe to drink at all. “It’s been a year since the tube well started giving dirty water. We have raised the issue with officers but none seem concerned by our problem,” laments Jemamani.

“We are forced to use contaminated water from the well. Even though we drink the water after straining it with a piece of cotton, many of our villagers complain of skin and stomach problems,” she says.

The picture emerging from the remotest village of Kodingi in Malkangiri District is no different either.

For the 25 to 30 Kondh families who call the village home, walking eight kilometers to bring a jug full of water has become a daily task.

As in the story of the village of Baunsagadia, here too the villagers depend on a well, which is even more dilapidated. As its water level has already bottomed out, villagers fear it will dry up completely within the next week.

“Every summer, the drinking water crisis haunts us. It’s not that we didn’t inform the officer concerned. We did, but to no avail. The government does nothing to put an end to our problems”, complains a resident.

After seeing the video of people’s suffering, PD, DRDA of Malkangiri district, Bala Mukunda Bhuyan said he asked the development officer of the block and the executive engineer of RWSS to visit the villages in a day or two and take immediate action to remedy the situation.

Meanwhile, as images of people struggling to get clean water emerge from different parts of the state, the blame game between political parties is starting to escalate.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alleged that the BJD-led dispensation completely failed in the implementation of the Jal Jeevan mission. The party alleged that 56% of total homes in the state have yet to receive clean drinking water. In 160 islets, drinking water supply projects are only on paper.

“The state received grants from the 15th Finance Commission of Rs 1,002 crore in the financial year 2021-22. But the state government is using Basudha logo instead of Jal Jeevan mission logo,” BJP leader Ramaranjan Baliarsingh said.

Notably, Panchayati Raj and Minister of Drinking Water Pratap Jena had informed him on March 29 in the House that they would provide drinking water to all households in the state by the end of 2024.

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