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The 'thirsty' areas of Kashmir

Kupwara , Wed, 18 May 2011 ANI

Kupwara, May 18 (ANI): "I have to walk one and half kilometer everyday to bring water from the spring. I keep the loaded pot on my head because of which I am losing my hair and my head and eyes continuously pain. What should I care the most, my headache or quenching thirst of my family members, their survival?"


Believe it or not, the question is being asked not in a desert area, but in a place referred to as ' a heaven on earth' eulogized by poets, artists and travelers. Yes this is happening in the vale of Kashmir, in the shadow of the magnificent Himalayas renowned for its breathtaking beauty, for nature in its pristine purity. This is the anguish of Rahmat Jaan, a resident of Serhad village of Dolipura area of Trihgam block in border district of Kupwara. The daily chore to collect water through a long and hazardous path takes her two hours.


This is taking a toll not only on her health, but her peace of mind. She says: " When I am all by myself in the night, I curse my parents a lot. Why did they marry me in a village where even a basic requirement like water is so difficult to get? "Women like Rahmat trek across the terrain from different directions across the mountainous terrain to this life-giving source. The entire ordeal is enervating, exhausting and for many of the young women, it does not end when they reach home. Often they have to bear the taunts of their mother-in-laws as to why they took so long! Bushra, an MA student of Kashmir University, is enraged at this clear lack of government's effort to make something as fundamental as water, available to it people.


"On the one hand, we are talking about unifying Indian rivers, while the reality is that in places like Dolipura, people have to bring water from far flung areas on their head, sometimes on their horses too for drinking and for irrigating their farms."


As often is the case, it is the women and girls in the family, who bear the brunt. In this case, it is not only married women, who have to run their households but girl students whose time for studies and in fact even for going to school gets severely limited because of this burden.


It is gradually eating into their time, their precious years to acquire an education. At times it can be dangerous. Rubina, from the area recounts "Recently, I was going back home with water on my head. I had to take a route, which was covered with snow. I slipped and was badly injured, my hand is fractured."


Rubina's mother understands the treacherous route well and adds, " My daughter has a difficult time balancing the pot of water on her head. Then the mountain route is so narrow that two people cannot cross, it is slippery also."


The situation has been continuing for as long as anyone around can remember. Things have not changed. The region has become isolated, facing a form of social boycott. Rues Sajida Begum, " People avoid marrying their daughters to suitors in the area. They flatly refuse a proposal the moment they realize that we belong to an area where girls have to travel miles to get water."


So, the question is why is this sorry state of affairs continuing? Why is the state government, the district administration, the block authorities, the panchayat bodies which have recently got a shot with the recent elections are still asleep, while Rubina, Sajida, Rehmat and countless others in the region continue to live dangerously.


According to the Sarpanch of the area, whenever a government official talks about the water supply in this area, they only talk about spring water in the area. This will not meet the requirement for entire area-the water reserves in the spring are simply not sufficient.


The administration should come up with alternatives to meet the needs of the population, like digging a pond. Haji Muhammad Ghufran, an elderly man from this area, is even more forthright "Water crisis could be solved in no time by the administration. The simple solution is to connect the pipeline that supplies water to Kupwara city to Dolipura."


People across Kashmir want solutions to their everyday problems of water, health, trade, education and infrastructure amongst others. Perhaps this was the reason for the massive turnout of the Panchayat elections in the state being held after ten years. People now feel that they can participate in the democratic process and address these issues


The articulation of their needs has made the Minister for Irrigation and Flood Control, Taj Mohi-ud-Din, to direct the Chief Engineers, PHE, Kashmir to prepare a list of areas facing insufficient supply of drinking water.


People hope that the concerned executive engineers will take steps to follow up the proposals. The Charkha Development Communication network says that the people of Kupwara and bordering districts will be watching. By Rahila Bano (ANI)


Read More: Kupwara | Bano | Pancha

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