Mere mention of Thar desert evokes images of dry, parched landscape, but in one village of Barmer in Rajasthan boats have replaced camels as preferred means of transport.
Keria village in Barmer is located on the Luni, a seasonal river that ran aground in the area, till some years ago. Now, the Luni waters are adding to the water released by the partially constructed Narmada canal and the village is waterlogged.
The farmlands being some distance away, villagers have bought boats to commute. “Two years ago when water started collecting at places we used to wait for it to recede. But this year when the water level did not come down, we started using boats,” said villager Jagdish.
For yet others this has come as an opportunity to earn an extra buck. They have deployed boats on either side of the water channel and charge R5 for every ride.
Another village, Zakharda, has been facing a similar situation for the last 3-4 years, but as it has negligible population, not many are affected.
An official of the Narmada canal project said, “We are aware of the problem but we have to release the excess water to avoid damage to the canal.”
Villagers may be facing a lot of discomfort, but nobody is complaining. “We have faced water scarcity throughout our lives, now that god has sent some, we are happy to see greenery in our fields. This (waterlogging), comparatively, is a very small problem,” said Keria’s Harish.