Salma Khatun's husband barely manages to earn Rs 5,000 a month by preparing sticker bindis. And she spends a whopping 12% of it to buy drinking water for her family of five.
Salma's colony has hand pumps and taps and sometimes water is even brought in tankers. But all three sources of water show traces of contamination.
The 26 year old said ever since she moved to Bhalaswa colony four years ago, she started noticing rashes on her face. "Not just this, using this water for bathing has resulted in heavy hair loss too. My son has developed some scalp problem due to this water," she added.
The colony is located right next to the Bhalaswa landfill site in north Delhi.
For thousands of people living near the landfill site, operating since 1993, it is a problem they can't get rid of.
People from scores of similar localities across Delhi were relocated to the Bhalaswa resettlement colony in November 2002. More than 4,000 households — its population approximately 25,000 — are directly affected due to water contaminated by leachate, a highly toxic solution that seeps through soil and pollutes groundwater.
Mohammad Maqsood (22), a driver, said, "I have already started loosing so much of hair at this age."
Bhalaswa Lokshakti Manch, a community based organisation, and Hazard Centre, an advocacy group, carried out a study to understand the relationship between the quality of groundwater and the general health of people. Along with Bhalaswa, the respondents comprised people from neighbouring Shraddhanand colony, Mukundpurgaon and Nathupura.
Water samples from 15 locations near the landfill site showed high concentration of total dissolved solids (TDS). All groundwater samples exceeded the desirable limit of TDS (500 ppm) and seven of them crossed the permissible limit (2,000 ppm).
The respondents, around 900, said the health problems include gastro-intestinal problems, diarrhoea, stomach ache, vomiting, skin infection, eye irritation and hair loss.
Dr Sanjay Jain, senior consultant, department of gastroenterology and hepatology, Apollo Hospitals, said: "Several gastro-intestinal and lever infections occur due to poor quality water.”
Dunu Roy from Hazard Centre said: "The government has dumped people from various areas at the resettlement colony just like the entire garbage of the city is dumped at the landfill site."
Delhi Jal Board (DJB) CEO Ramesh Negi admitted that groundwater contamination is bound to happen as the site
has no anti-leachating provisions.
Also, tankers draw water from sourced from a Ranny well, which tap shallow aquifers and sub-surface water from floodplains, that has salty water.
"However, apart from salty water, if there are any other problems due to our tankers, we will look into it," Negi assured.