Village in Maharashtra uses bathwater for chores as drought intensifies
Rainfall deficiency, depleted groundwater levels in water-starved Aurangabad leaves residents in dire straits.Updated: Jun 22, 2019 07:38 IST
As the drought enters week 32 in the Marathwada region of Maharashtra (Vidarbha and Central Maharashtra, being the other two draught affected regions), residents of Adul village on the border of Beed and Aurangabad districts have taken to reusing bathwater for their daily chores, an indication of the dire straits that they find themselves in. Bathwater, classified as gray water, is not potable and is also not considered fit to use for domestic purposes unless treated, due to the presence of soap particles and dead skin. Yet, Adul’s inhabitants say, they have no choice.
At 8 am, the sun is already blazing down on the village and it’s time for Radhakisan Baburao Wagh’s bath. The 40-year-old farmer, heads the household comprising his wife, two sons, his parents, his brother and his brother’s wife. However, since April,Wagh has stopped using soap. He sits on a cot stringed with coir ropes — baaz in local parlance — and his wife places a tub below the cot. Wagh pours water over himself, tumbler by tumbler, careful not to spill any outside of the tub. The water that collects in it will be now used by the other members of the family.
The women of the house will be the last to use the water collected in the tub.
“In many families,the water collected in the tub is also used for washing clothes and utensils,” Adul resident Manoj Chavan, said. Wagh’s and Chavan’s families aren’t the only ones doing this. Villagers told Hindustan Times that in fact, this has been common practise in the village, located in Aurangabad district. “Why should it appear shocking or dirty?” Wagh asks, defiant. “At a time when we are facing a serious water crisis, there are only two options before us: either live or die. What do you do in such critical conditions?”
Adul, with a population of around 13,000 people, is among the 1,372 villages in Aurangabad district facing an acute crisis since last year. According to data provided by the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), Aurangabad has not received any rainfall since December. In Adul, the rainfall deficiency last year was 47.9%, according to the Ground Water Surveys and Development Agency (GSDA) Pune. Adul is supplied by Jayakawadi dam, where the water levels have dropped to zero, according to the state Irrigation Department. Already by March, all the 9talukas in Aurangabad district showed groundwater depletion. As per the GSDA, a majority showed a depletion of more than one metre. Adul is one of 194 villages where the depletion has been greater than three metres.
What this has meant is an increased reliance on private tankers — for those who can afford it. When HT visited neighbouring Beed, which is among Maharashtra’s worst drought-affected regions, in May, private suppliers were charging between ₹ 250-300 for a 1000 litres of water — a high price that households had to incur every four to six days. In Adul, where the earnings are even lesser, private water tankers have been selling water at an even steeper rate of ₹10 per ‘handa’ (a measure of 12 litres) and ₹80 per drum (a measure of 100 litres). Most villagers here can’t afford this. But that is not the only problem. As of this week, only three water tankers are being sent by the district administration to supply free water daily to this village. The Gram Panchayat’s wells and borewells have gone dry.
Sunil Bankar, a 22-year-old a final year student at Santeshwar Arts College in Adul village,said, “Initially I used to skip bathing; but because of body odour, my friends in college started avoiding me and it was difficult for me to attend lectures. Hence I adopted this new technique...”
In many homes, notices have come up on the front door. Written in Marathi, one reads: “Welcome to our home. Please come inside and have food. But don’t ask for water.”
But there is good news. As per the IMD’s Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) data, Aurangabad district will move to less dry, with an index of 0 to -.99. In layman’s terms, rain is expected.