To collect or not to collect rainwater for home use should not pose a dilemma, but here in Dongripada, in Thane (rural) district of Maharashtra, it is an everyday dilemma for the women of 50-60 households, especially when the skies open up after weeks of drought.
Vanita Shantaram Surum (22) lives this dilemma. “When it begins to rain we don’t know what to do,” says Surum, “Should we collect rain water that flows down our roofs or should we still trek an hour to reach the pond; it’s a dilemma each house faces daily, depending on how bad their need for water is.”The villagers of Dongripada, about a 3-hour drive northeast of Mumbai, have devised a way to collect rain water. They tie broken pieces of pipes along the edge of a roof, with a slight tilt down. Rainwater from the roof flows down the make-shift pipe into a large plastic drum positioned below. All drums here are uniformly blue and can store about 100 litres each.
The dilemma Surum, and others like her, have is: should she collect water thus or not.
“The doctor who comes once a month has told us not to collect rainwater like this, because children fall ill when we use this water. Some women listen to the doctor, others don’t,” says Yamuna Vasant Gavandh (40) whose house sports the mandatory blue drum. Surum prefers not to collect rainwater. “I bring three pots and my mother-in-law brings two every morning from the pond, even when it rains,” she says. There are arguments in most households over this, she adds.
Intermittent rain in the last couple of days has not addressed the water crisis of this hamlet — and hundreds of similar hamlets — in Thane district, which is not listed in Maharashtra’s drought-affected 15 (of 32) districts.
In official records, Dongripada is serviced by a water tank and two natural ponds; the cement concrete tank in this thatched-hut village doesn’t sport a pipeline and lies useless, the ponds are an hour’s trek away. “We have plans for these far-flung padas (hamlets), which include collecting rainwater in tanks,” says additional collector Kailash Jadhav. Meanwhile, villagers live out their dilemma every day when it rains, and trek for hours when it doesn’t.