Water Blues: A Photo Essay
Water is the most sought after commodity in Gade Khud village, a beautiful piece of land that is surrounded by vast mountains sparkling with snow. Located at the distance of 17km from Srinagar city, life in this village of Sonawari, in North Kashmir’s Bandipora district, comes to standstill when a government installed community tap comes to life. Kashmir Life’s photojournalist, Bilal Bahadur clicked villagers on toes, who seem adorning ‘jamboree outlook’ for the want of water.
Bucketing water: This elder lady in Gund village is heading towards the community tap to fill her bucket with water.
Towards Tap: Early morning, female folks of the village make beeline for fetching water. They leave behind their chores at home, just to fill their pots.
Unison Souls: Apart from agriculture that keeps villagers busy in this part of Kashmir, it is their quest for clean drinking water that has now became their prime occupation.
Pot Pouring: Every morning people assemble around a small tap that is fitted at the end of a thin steel pipe and wait till it starts dispensing water.
Treading on: Men, women, children in their school uniforms, newly married women with fresh henna on their hands, carrying large cans of all shapes and sizes rush to book their spot near the tap.
Veiled Venture: “Can you imagine we don’t have taps in our homes,” says Raja, a local villager. “But what is the fun of having taps when there is no water.”
Elder Twinge: The condition of the water availability is so harsh that not a single house has a regular tap connection to it. The main water pipe that feeds the villagers has four water points where from the women and men folk alike stand in lines for their turns to get water.
Beeline Blues: The villagers claim that the PHE authorities stationed at Urin water scheme have power generator with them but they are not using it. “The power generator lies idle at the tube well and is not being used during power shutdowns,” claims another resident of the area.
Water Bonds: Gade Khud and Najan are being supplied ground water through a tube well from Urin, another village of Sonawari since last year. And once in a week they are also supplied water through Diver-Parihaspora water scheme.
Cult Cart: The water from Urin water scheme is usually supplied in the morning hours and that too for 15 to 30 minutes only, locals claim. “Short timing is the worst problem,” Showkat, a local villager, says adding that the long queues often result in cat brawls among the women folk.
Arduous Beam: The PHE division Sopore also doesn’t pay heed to the problems faced by them and people claim to have visited them hundreds of times. “They don’t listen to us. What can we expect from them,” asks Raja.
Water Works: The area has a single irrigation canal flowing through it which is used by village womenfolk to wash clothes. “On one side of canal women wash clothes while on other side cattle drink water,” said Showkat Ahmad, a private school teacher from the area.
Fluid Filling: But, this year due to dirt in the canal a number of animals fell severely ill and some of them even died. “The water flows only for five months in a year in the canal from April to August,” says Showkat.
Community Tapping: Locals blame that areas around these taps have become source of water borne diseases. This year the Sonawari belt saw out break of Hepatitis-B. Interestingly there is no primary health centre in the area. The doctors who visited these villages, besides other things advised locals to drink boiled water. “We have to go to Sumbal hospital or Pattan for the treatment,” says Showkat.
Relentless Rue: The area is being represented by sitting MLA Sonawari and present Higher Education Minister, Muhammad Akbar Lone. The villagers allege that their representative in state legislature has only visited them once since he won 2008 elections. “He has only paid a single visit to this area and he is very much aware of our plight but he is doing nothing,” contends Raja.
Competing Containers: Around 17 kilometers from heart of Srinagar city, Gade Khud and its adjoining village, Najan together has a population of about 5000 souls.
Men Mingle: The ‘tragedy’ that befalls the residents of Gade Khud and Najan everyday puts a question mark over the port folio their MLA holds.
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