The worst and most inhumane form of discrimination and untouchability is seen when it comes to water. Even today, many villages have a different source of water allotted for Dalits. Many a times, upper caste men and women forbid Dalit women from touching the public source of water fearing the source will be “polluted".
Locally called Neeru, water of the Nilgiris in its springs and wetlands has been the fountainhead for two main rivers systems of South India. Today, with growing anthropogenic influences, there is a water crisis in the hills that needs our attention more than ever before.
India is, by far, the world’s largest groundwater economy. India’s annual withdrawal of fresh groundwater (253 Billion Cubic Metres in 2013) amounts to one fourth of the global total and is more than that of China and the US combined. Over 80% of water extracted is used in agriculture. The share of tubewells in net irrigated area rose from a mere 1% in 1960-61 to over 40% in 2013-14.
In popular imagination, steeped in consumer culture, the hills are exotic and aesthetically sublime places to find solace away from busy urban life. This kind of imagination conveniently ignores and de-contextualizes the hills and the problems they face today. The Himalayas, often known as the Water Tower of Asia, are revered because many of the world's important rivers originate from them.