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Surrounded by flood water but not a drop to drink

Many parts of Assam are engulfed by floodwater but villagers say they cannot even find a drop of clean drinking water to give a dying child.

india Updated: Jul 04, 2003 16:17 IST

Many parts of India's northeast are engulfed by floodwater but villagers say they cannot even find a drop of clean drinking water to give a dying child.

For Madhusmita Deka, 35, from the village of Nonoi in Assam, drinking water has become a priceless commodity.

She spent hours on an agonizing search for a glass of water for her sick daughter - but came back empty handed.

"My six-year-old daughter is suffering from dysentery and dehydration but I don't have water to give her the tablets prescribed by the doctor," Deka said.

She finally had to dip a mug into the mustard-coloured floodwater, boiled it, and grudgingly gave it to her daughter.

"I don't know if her condition will get worse now as I had to give her muddy water to drink," she said in a voice choked with emotion.

Nonoi, 60 kilometres (35 miles) north of Guwahati, is just one of the 1,000 villages in the state that have been submerged since the main Brahmaputra River broke its banks in a second wave of flooding that began last week.

About 400,000 people were displaced during the first wave of floods in early June, but the waters later receded.

At least 10 people have died and up to 500,000 displaced in the flash floods and mudslides in India's northeast.

"All the water sources, including wells and ponds, are now filled with mud and slush due to the high floods," said villager Karuna Kanta Das.

"It is an irony indeed. We are surrounded by water from all sides, but still we don't have a drop of water to drink."

Many people are being forced to drink filthy water from ponds and wells leading to outbreak of water-borne diseases.

"People in their hundreds are complaining of diseases like dysentery and gastroenteritis, with some cases of jaundice also reported," said Ananda Das, a private doctor.

"There is no point telling people about hygiene and cleanliness as we know how they are surviving amidst the floods here."

In many areas flood-hit villagers are passing their days in wooden boats or on raised bamboo platforms and seeking medication from government health workers is a distant dream.

"We have heard of tall claims by the government about medical teams being sent to all flood-affected areas. But then in reality, the doctors do not visit areas worst affected by floods," said Pabitra Bora, a local youth.

Assam is not the only state that has been hit. Some 10,000 people have been left homeless in the neighbouring province of Tripura.

At least 50 villages in Tripura state have also come under floodwaters with three main rivers in spate following torrential rains during the past four days.

First Published: Jul 04, 2003 16:17 IST