Hundreds of villages in Chamarajanagar district are facing an acute shortage of potable drinking water in the absence of rain, dried-up water bodies and tanks, depleting ground water levels and inadequate supply of electricity to run pumpsets.
With the Assembly elections scheduled to be held on May 5, there is also a fear that villagers who face drinking water shortage may vote against the sitting public representatives. Those seeking votes during campaigning may face the villagers’ wrath.
Villages in Harave hobli, Shivapura, Uthalli, and Mariyala villages in Kasaba hobli in Chamarajanagar taluk and villages in Palya hobli and Ramapura hobli in Hanur area are facing severe water scarcity. Though the villagers requested the district administration to dig new borewells, no water was available as ground water levels have sunk. Soliga tribes in B.R.T wildlife sanctuary limits are also facing severe drinking water problems. Many villages are getting drinking water once in four days only after pumping sufficient water to the overhead tank. Since single-phase electricity is supplied in rural areas, there is not enough power to pump the drinking water. Three-phase electricity is supplied only for two to three hours. There are daily power cuts ranging from six to 12 hours.
The condition will worsen during April and May if the water bodies do not receive rain water so as to recharge the groundwater level. Though the district administration has enough money to tackle the water problems, the inadequate supply of electricity and failure of borewells have worsened the situation.
The district health department said that the majority of the water sources are polluted, causing anxiety among the residents of the villages. Of the 1,427 borewells in the district, only 1,329 are fit for drinking and the remaining are unfit for use. Of the 2,697 water sources such as pipelines and taps in front of houses which were tested, a total of 2,283 were fit for consumption and the remaining 414 were certified as unfit.
Many villages in Yelandur and Kollegal taluks have open wells that are sources of drinking water. Of 159 such open wells, 116 were certified as potable and the remaining, unfit for use.
Of the tests conducted in 1,220 water bodies including lakes and ponds, a total of 939 were declared potable and 281, non-potable.
Though the Health department personnel have advised the villagers not to use the water from some borewells for drinking purposes because of the high fluoride content, the situation has forced the villagers to drink the water. The district Health and Family Welfare department officials have collected drinking water samples at all the 65 Primary Health Centres of the district and submitted a report to the ZP. The main water sources such as borewells, open wells, tanks and lakes, taps and pipelines were subjected to tests along with water sources at PHCs.
Meanwhile, a religious head has called upon the villagers to warn the Government about their intention to boycott the election for want of drinking water. He was speaking after giving the initiation for a three-day padayatra organised by BSP from Aldur village to Chamarajanagar to mark World Water Day and demand permanent drinking water supply. He said many farmers were forced to sell their livestock for want of fodder and drinking water. He regretted the failure of the Government to take steps to repair the damaged borewells in many villages.
Permanent supply sought
Speaking on the occasion, the State convenor of BSP, N. Mahesh, has said the BSP has organised the padayatra to draw the attention of the Government to provide permanent drinking water. He urged the Government to take steps to provide power supply connection to 99 borewells sunk under the taluk drought relief scheme to supply drinking water. He said providing drinking water is an issue of top priority. He urged the Government to complete the Tayur project which was envisaged to provide permanent drinking water to 133 villages in Gundlupet taluk and 166 villages in Chamarajanagar taluk before 2014. He regretted the non-implementation of the Tayur project from Kabini even after allocating Rs.145 crore for it owing to the tender problem under the PPP model.
He said it is a matter of shame that rural women were forced have a sleepless night in a bid to fetch drinking water. He warned the district administration that the people will boycott the Assembly election if it fails to provide power connection to new borewells sunk to ease the drinking water problems.
The water crisis is a perennial problem not only for people but also for wild animals. Elephant, tigers, deer, bison, gaur, sambhar, etc., are struggling to ease their thirst as the water bodies are getting dried up inside the Bandipur National Park, Kollegal wildlife reserve, BRT project area and Cauvery wildlife sanctuary in the district. Of the 282 water holes, water is found only in 15 to 20 inside BNP. Acute shortage of water has forced several animals to migrate to the backwaters or the sources of available water bodies inside and outside the forest.
Elephants have started migrating in search of greener pastures and water sources. Elephants need at least 200 kg of fodder apart from plenty of water. The low moisture content in the soil due to high temperature is not adequate to facilitate the growth of fresh fodder.
To ease the grim situation, the Forest Department officials had taken steps to replenish water tanks/lakes inside the forests. An expert committee suggested supply of 52,000 litres of water to partially dried-up lakes and tanks every day. Six tanks of 2,000 litres capacity each had been constructed in the BNP and water is supplied by four tankers and two lorries. Two borewells had been sunk on the outskirts of the forests and nearly 50,000 litres of water was being drawn daily using tankers. However, the steps to replenish waterholes every day using tankers came under attack from wildlife experts/NGOs. They felt that such a step would lead to ecological and biological imbalance in the park.
Villagers are angry, and animals are moving out