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24-hour wait to fill two pots of water

Thane is not one of the 15 districts declared drought-struck, making the struggle for water tougher as villagers say wells dried up earlier this year.

india Updated: May 11, 2012 01:52 IST
Prachi Pinglay

On a scorching afternoon, Kamal Shivram appears to be engrossed in making papads in a one-room house in Pachghar, a village in Mokhada taluka in Thane district, about 120km from Mumbai. In reality, she is biding time before setting out to get water from a well more than a kilometre away, and then then wait through the night till she can fills two pots.

Kamal represents thousands of women from talukas such as Mokhada, Shahpur, Jawhar in Thane district, where women walk several kilometres to get a few pots of water for their families and livestock. Although water scarcity is common in summer, villagers say this year wells dried up in April itself.

What has worsened their situation is that though the government has declared drought in 15 districts in the state, Thane is not one of them.

Despite adequate rainfall, there are no rainwater-harvesting efforts in the region and wells routinely dry up after winter, leaving no water for drinking and for the cattle.

The administration has been sending 11 water tankers to some of the 59 villages in Mokhada since March-end, which activists say is not enough. "We don't get any tankers, and the well has dried up. We wait in queues through day and night till water slowly fills in the wells," said Kamal, whose husband accompanies her for security at night. At times, villagers spend more than 24 hours to fill water for a day's requirement.

The nearby Dolhare village has been more lucky, albeit through a misfortune. After a woman in the village allegedly died of exhaustion from making trips to fill water last month, the administration has been sending a tanker regularly to put water in two wells situated near the village.

However, the remaining areas continue to be severely affected. Chores such as washing clothes are done in groups once in 8 to 10 days at water points such as wells near the main road or a river.

"We travel for seven to 10 kilometres in buses. Often, the conductors do not let us in because of the pile of clothes on our heads," said Shakuntala Jadhav from Dolhare village.

The villagers have been opposing the Middle Vaitarna project, slated to supply water to Mumbai from next year.