Reshma Devi, 50, wakes up at 4 every morning and walks a kilometer to fetch water from a government pipeline. The only water source in her locality, a tube well, has dried up. And she has not enough money to buy water being sold at Rs 20 for 50 litres.
Devi, a resident of Ranchi’s Yamuna Nagar, is not alone. More than 15,000 residents of 12 localities spread over four wards on the city’s periphery are facing water crisis. The groundwater table has depleted by 400 ft in the area and tube wells and many borings have dried up, they said.
“Six tube wells are the only source of water in Yamuna Nagar but all of them have gone dry. In absence of government piped water supply, we have to walk more than a kilometer to bring water,” said Devi, a mother of three.
She said a few people bring water on autos for sale. “But a 50-litre gallon costs Rs 20, which means we have to bear Rs 600 a month on water only. If we spend Rs 600 a month on water, what will we eat?” Devi asked.
Worried over the situation, more than 300 residents volunteered their services to build three temporary check dams on a stream, known as Bada Nala, to tap rainwater, as the weather department has predicted heavy rains.
“Ranchi and its surroundings are likely to receive moderate to heavy rains in next 24 hours,” said Upendra Srivastava, forecasting of ficer of the Ranchi Meteorological Centre.
The stream, which runs two km from Piska to Harmu, has almost dried up. The makeshift dams are expected to recharge groundwater and meet residents’ domestic requirement in the summer.
Jagdish Rai, 47, said, “Groundwater has depleted by 400 ft in the locality. Many borings in posh colonies like Sai Bihar have dried up. But no government agencies are here to deal with the trouble.” He said the government talked of rainwater harvesting but nothing was done on the ground.
“So, we decided to recharge the groundwater table on our own by constructing three check dams. Three big ponds have been created with check dams. If they is filled with rainwater, residents will have no problem to use the water for domestic purposes for next three months,” Rai said while filling soil in makeshift check points.
Groundwater levels in city’s upmarket neighbourhoods like Kanke, Morahbadi, Doranda, Hatia and Harmu have been depleting by 1m to 1.5m every year, according to a Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) report. SLS Jageshwar, former director of the state groundwater directorate, said rapid urbanisation of Ranchi during the last few decades has altered the city’s landscape and disturbed the water retention capacity.
Youth Power of India (YPI) president Manoj Kumar said, “It is government’s job to provide water to every citizens. Rainwater harvesting mission is a big failure in Jharkhand only because of the government apathy, which has forced residents to buy water.” YPI, an NGO, supported construction of check dams by residents.
Admitting water crisis in the localities, Ranchi mayor Asha Lakra said, “We will supply water through tankers to the localities from March 15. Besides, a water pipeline project is also underway by the drinking water and sanitation department, which will be started soon.”