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Nepal is last straw for this thirsty West Champaran village

Bhikhnathori is a rugged rural place on the bank of Pandarai river which inundates the area during rainy season almost every year. But ironically, villagers continue to reel under drinking water crisis for ages.

patna Updated: Jul 21, 2018 10:29 IST
Sandeep Bhaskar
Sandeep Bhaskar
Hindustan Times, Bhikhnathori (West Champaran)
Nepal,Indo-Nepal border,Water scarcity
People collecting Rahi Dhara water from Nepal area in Bhikhnathori village of West Champaran district. (HT Photo )

It’s early lazy summer morning in one obscure corner in the plateau region bordering Nepal. Nonetheless, the interior of this village has begun humming with activities.

Children are on the street clutching their bags on their way to school. Male folks are leaving cottage to eke out their living, but women are still busy going about household chores. While some are washing clothes and utensils in nearby river, Jhuniya, Mamata and Kaushalya, among others, have returned from across the Indo-Nepal border, carrying, what they said, the elixir of life.

Located at the distance of about 270 kms north from state capital Patna, this just yet another day at Bhikhnathori, a sleepy village ensconced in the lap of nature’s splendour.

Here, as many as 800-odd villagers belonging to Tharu, Adivasi, Mushahar and Muslim communities are fighting against their destiny to demand their right to drinking water since time immemorial. But with every facility made available to the villagers running in poor condition, tackling the water scarcity appears to be the worst challenge facing the government here.

“One of the two deep borings has gone dry, while water tank attached with the one that is operational is ravaged by germs and insects. If we drink the water, we will surely fall sick,” Poonam Devi, member of panchayat samiti, explained away reasons behind the villagers dependence on water fetched from Nepal.

Once known as Bhikshu Thor (Abode of Budhidhist monks), Bhikhnathori is a rugged rural place on the bank of Pandarai river which inundates the area during rainy season almost every year. But ironically, villagers continue to reel under drinking water crisis for ages.

“In 2008, a water tank carrying 5000 litres per day was pressed into the services of villagers by the Nitish government,” said Dayanand Sahani, ex-village headman, adding the facility was discontinued after two tube well borings were commissioned in 2016.

But the villagers’ woes were far from over as one deep boring went dry in 2017. “Now germs and insects have ravaged the water tank owing to the lack of maintenance by PHED,” said Rajan Oraon, adding several plea for its upkeep and maintenance has remained best ignored so far.

However, a mere two kilometres long journey to Thori, Nepal for water fetchers hasn’t remained a smooth affair either. People on the other side of the border are not friendly with them all the time. The Nepalese government supplies two kinds of piped water to its citizens in the hilly village known as Amrit Dhara, for drinking purpose and Rahi Dhara, for household chores. The Indian villagers have to contend with water of rahi dhara instead of amrit dhara.

According to villagers, there are instances galore when wordy duels and fights have taken place on some trivial and issues of eve teasing.

“But they have never bothered to restrain us from taking water from their country. For, they are also dependent on grocery items especially salt and spices on us since long. So neither they are doing us a favour nor we are doing them the favour,” said Punnu Singh, a grocery shop owner.

On why one of the two out of order deep tube well has not been repaired, PHED executive engineer Rajesh Prasad Sinha blamed the depleting water table in the area for it.

“One deep bore is fair enough to cater to the needs of 1000 people, but these pumps are solar powered as there is no electricity in the village. Service of pump is likely to be erratic owing to cloudy weather most of the time in the area,” said Sinha.

On being informed that villagers have deserted the consumption of water from overhead tank owing insect infestation, his riposte was: “We will rush a team immediately to look into it.”

However, Shailendra Garhwal, president of Zila Parishad, said the deep bore was not drilled as deeper as it should be, so it dried up.

“Fear of other deep boring going dry too looms large. Hence, we need to explore some permanent solution to this malaise,” said Garhwal, adding, it’s a shame on the state government that its citizens have to travel to foreign shore to fetch water.

First Published: Jul 21, 2018 10:29 IST