Water crisis and water chaos in Punjab - An article by Umendra Dutt, Kheti Virasat Mission

This article talks of the water crisis in Punjab, which is leading to protests and conflicts among villages

Water crisis and water chaos in Punjab - An article by Umendra Dutt, Kheti Virasat MissionLast month Punjab has been declared as the over all best state in the country by India Today news magazine for the third conjunctive year. It is good to have a prize for Punjab and state government has immediately taken this as an opportunity to have publicity campaign for its achievement. But there is another side of the picture also which shows doom, distress and destruction is fast engulfing this land of five waters. It is a Water-Chaos in the Punjab.

We can see farmers committing suicides due to failure of pumps, neighbours in farms killing each other over the quarrel for irrigation water, women are bound to fetch water on their head from as far as 3 kms, and a vast majority of people have no option other then to drink sub-human water. We can see long queues around certain hand pumps adjacent to canals for potable water; we can find farmers fetching water on trolleys, bullock carts, jeeps, and village made jeep-the jogards, motor bikes and bicycles in several villages.

The situation is more pity in southern districts of state in Malwa region, but situation is fast becoming all most same in entire Punjab. There are news of public demonstrations, road-blocks, dharnas and civil unrest on the issue of water. Students boycotting the classes and even an engineering collage near Malout have forced to declare vacations for three days as there is no water supply to the institute in April 2006. Students at ITI Moga went on strike to protest against non-availability of drinking water.

The water crisis is so vast that it had engulfed every nook and corner of the state. You can find farmers demonstrating in Talwandi Sabo, Pathankot, Fazilka, Malout, Muktsar, Hoshiarpur and Garhshankar. Then there are demonstrations by urban people at Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, and list is end less.

Water scarcity had impacted daily lives and routine of Punjab peoples. They have to spend time and money to bring water from safe sources. Residents of Talwandi Bhai and Mudki towns in Ferozepur are compelled to drink un-potable water and if they wished to drink near potable water they had to travel as far 8 KMs to fetch the same. In Talwandi Sabo block also villagers in some of adjoining villages has to bring water from as far as 10 KMs. In Malsingh Wala village one could see peoples toeing water not only to drink, but also for bath and for their animals. It is 100% water importing village. Malsingh Wala has already declared itself as ‘village for sale’. Even earlier village Harkishanpura which was first village to put itself on sale has also severe water problem. There is no water for irrigation neither for drinking. The water crisis made village insolvent and compelled villagers to put village on sale. The situation is almost same in whole of Malwa region. The severe water crisis is also becoming a social stigma upon some villages. It is tough to find bride for village youths as no body wants to marry his/her daughter to these villages.   

Water crisis is so pitiable that village Buladewala with population of 6000 is getting water from 2 hand pumps only. Situation is so grim that in urban and sub-urban areas people are forced to install expensive submersible pumps to fetch water. More is the depth more it costs on drilling and then it needs further higher capacity motor to fetch water and more power bill; it is unending process now in most parts of the Punjab.

Even villagers’ drinking water from sub-human system has no other option left “It is better to drink unfit water then die of thirst" - says Barjinder Singh a farmer from village Malsingh wala.

The water crisis is fast deepening in Malwa that public anguish is raising all around. About three dozen villages of Talwandi Sabo had already declared to boycott the coming assembly elections in the state to mark the protest against non-availability of water.

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