Parched Rajasthan stares at a crisis

In some villages, water is being supplied once or twice in a month. In others, people are hoping a train will arrive with water wagons.

Updated: Apr 15, 2010, 10:56 AM IST

Jaipur: In some villages, water is being supplied once or twice in a month. In others, people are hoping a train will arrive with water wagons. The desert state of Rajasthan is staring at a parched summer, as the heat picks up and groundwater sources run dry.

With 26 of the state`s 33 districts reeling under drought, the Rajasthan government`s efforts to ease the crisis seem too late and too little. Reports coming from various parts suggest growing unrest among residents for water.

Sunder Devi, a resident of Naulakhi, told reporters that her village is getting water only two or three times in a month and that too with very low pressure.

"It takes over half an hour to fill a bucket," she said, adding that if the situation persists, villagers would be forced to migrate.

Incidents of manhandling of employees of the water resource department have been reported from a few places, including Bundi town.

Acute water shortage in the state has forced residents of a village near Bikaner to maintain a tight vigil on water bodies to prevent water theft.

"We do not want to take any chances; so we have appointed four security guards to keep a vigil on our water bodies," said Lala Ram, a resident of Pugal village in Bikaner district.

The crisis in Akhlera in Jhalawar district has become so acute that the local administration is now planning to engage 150 tankers to supply water.

The Amalvada Deh dam - the only source of water in the town with a population of over 12,000 - has water only for two weeks.

"We have asked the state relief department to help us. We want water to be supplied by tankers from May," a senior district administration official said.

A similar situation has emerged on Sojat Road in Pali district where the administration has demanded a special 65 wagon water train from next month.

The crisis has become so acute in Atru in Baran district that the water resource department, in spite of spending Rs.20,000 daily on the supply of water through tankers, is finding it difficult to quench the thirst of local residents.

"This water supply is not sufficient; the government should do something to solve it. Water is a necessity after all," said Babulal Meena, a resident of Gaytri Nagar.

Women in Bhilwara town Tuesday blocked the road in front of the municipality office, demanding more water. "We want more tubewells to be dug so that we can get more supply of water," Kamla, a housewife, said.

Water is being supplied once in every three days in the town which is famous for its textile industry.

In 2009, the Rajasthan government had declared a drought in 26 districts following over 50 percent damage to the crops due to the poor monsoon last year. And the drought continues.

In all, 32,833 villages spread over 26 districts have been affected by scanty rainfall.
The ground water situation has turned alarming in the desert state with only 30 water blocks out of a total 237 left in safe zone.

Rajasthan, with more than 10.4 percent of the country`s geographical area supporting more than 5.5 percent of the human population and 18.7 percent of the livestock, has only 1.16 percent of the total surface water available in the country.
With an increase in population and water demand for various purposes, the state is heading towards grave water scarcity.

The per capita annual water availability in the state is about 780 cubic metres against a minimum requirement of 1,000 cubic metres. It is feared that the availability would fall below 450 cubic metres by 2050.