| Urdu Bazaar residents wait for their turn at the only working hand pump in the locality in Darbhanga on Friday. Picture by Mukesh Kumar Jha |
Soaring mercury and scant rainfall have pushed residents of the 48 wards under Darbhanga Municipal Corporation (DMC) to turn to God for mercy and potable water.
A majority of the wards in the district is facing an acute water crisis because of the depleting water table. Most hand pumps have run dry and people are forced to travel long distances under the scorching sun and wait in queue to collect drinking water.
Only submersible water pumps are functional but their number is limited and access restricted for common people. The ordinary water pumps go just 100ft to 150ft under the ground, but the submersible pumps are dug 350ft to 400ft deeper. The facility is expensive and hence limited to certain upscale localities in the district.
With no relief in sight, the common people are thronging shrines, organising mass prayers and havans (holy fire), hoping for the rain god to rid them of their woes. On Thursday, a mass namaaz was organised at a local mosque for early rain.
Mohammad Aslam, a resident of Urdu Bazaar, said: “We followed the instructions of the holy Quran, which says prayer at mosque helps one recover from crisis. We collectively offered namaaz with the hope that we would get relief soon.”
Once it rains, the water table would rise to normal, making the water pumps functional again.
The district administration has failed to cope up with the demand of water this summer. “We have limited resources to meet the drinking water demand of the residents. We have only two tankers, which supply drinking water to people round-the-clock as per their demand,” DMC commissioner KBN Singh told The Telegraph.
Singh added: “We do not have a detailed report on wards that are facing water crisis. When we receive complaint of water scarcity, we send the water tanker as quickly as possible. As per our information, no ward is facing total water crisis, but they do need water tanker service now and then. The water table goes down every summer but the situation has become more grave this year because of scant rains.”
The municipal commissioner, however, sounded optimistic about the water crisis solution. “To permanently fix the drinking water problem, we have started construction of 10 water towers. Two of them will be completed soon. We expect a majority of them to become functional before next summer. We are also planning to purchase water tanks that can be carried on tractors to supply water to people.”
Savitri Devi (50), a resident of Urdu Bazaar, said: “Most of the women have to travel around half-a-kilometre to fetch drinking water as our hand pumps have run dry. Around 50 hand pumps have become non-functional in our area.”
She added: “The DMC office has assured us that water tankers will arrive soon but it cannot solve our problem permanently. The water crisis has gone from bad to worse in the past 10 days. The only solution lies in digging submersible pumps in each colony of the town.”