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In Parched Villages of Jharkhand, Fears of Water Shortage Trump Coronavirus Concerns

Representative Image. (Image: Kumari Prerana/News18)

Representative Image. (Image: Kumari Prerana/News18)

Several villages of Chaibasa, Ghatshila, Sahebganj and even state capital Ranchi are facing acute shortage of water.

Villagers of Jharkhand are used to walking in search of water as most districts in the state face severe drought during the summer months.

But it is different this time as the global coronavirus pandemic has also severely affected India, which has been in complete lockdown for the past month, with travel restrictions not allowing villagers to walk kilometres for water.

"On the one hand, the government is ensuring food to all, but who will take care of this? One can stay hungry but water is something we cannot survive without. Don't they understand the essentiality of it?" asks Laxmi Khalko, a resident of Meritola in Chaibasa.

Although Jharkhand is a rich storehouse of minerals, it is not so rich in water resources. Several villages in Chaibasa, Ghatshila, Sahebganj and even the state capital Ranchi are facing acute shortage of water these days. Most handpumps and taps are completely dry and some of them in working condition let out mud instead.

Amid the lockdown restrictions, young girls in colorful frocks with their mothers and grandmothers manage to travel over two-and-a-half kilometres three times a day, carrying two pots each time while barefoot to fetch water in Chaibasa's tribal- and Dalit-dominated village of Sentola.

Seeing their helplessness, even officials do not take action against them.

"Initially they used to beat us. But later on they understood. The fear of water shortage is much bigger than coronavirus in our area," says Sumati Karwan, a local resident.

But as the state administration is busy in controlling the spread of COVID-19, water shortage isn't on top of their list of priorities.

Even Ranchi's condition is no different. As positive cases have taken a toll in the capital and the whole area is sealed, large amounts of water is being used for cleaning and sanitising.

The three major dams (Kanke, Rukka and Hatia) of the city are now filled with sediments affecting the water table. Due to this sedimentation, the storage capacity of all three dams has decreased manifold.

Due to less storage of water in Hatia Dam, water is being rationed on Monday and Thursday every week.

People living in the HEC quarters are carrying on their work by storing water in tanks, but those in areas like Jagannathpur, Mausibadi and Barjhath face water shortage twice a week.

But not even half-hearted attempts are being made at construction of artificial water reservoirs in suitable areas in and around Ranchi to collect rain water, leaving people to face the heat on their own.