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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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CIMA Gallary

Wells filled up in DF Block

With frequent cases of children falling into wells across the nation, Bidhannagar Municipality has swung into action and filled two wells in DF Block on July 13. But these wells were the sources of supply of the slum-dwellers in the area, who are now having to travel to far corners of the township in search of water.

The wells that were at the ground level without any boundary wall were situated in an empty plot behind Bikash Bhavan, a plot away from the Bidhannagar north police station. It is surrounded by wild growth of trees and shanties.

“Wandering children could have fallen into them anytime. Besides they were illegal,” civic chief Krishna Chakraborty told The Telegraph Salt Lake. “People cannot simply occupy a plot and dig a well for themselves anywhere they please. Wells are only allowed in under-construction buildings as they require a source of water but these buildings are given completion certificates only after the wells are filled up,” she said. All councillors have been asked to identify such wells in their wards so they can also be covered.

But the absence of the well is creating problems for the slum-dwellers. “We would use the water from the wells to cook, bathe and wash,” says Ranjan Kaji, who works in one of the four eateries next to the wells. The eateries would serve food to employees of Bikash Bhavan and other office buildings in the area. Kaji believes around 400 people eat here on weekdays. “Without water, we cannot even wash dishes, let alone cook,” he says.

The slum-dwellers are now having to cycle to the municipal water taps in Baisakhi or the Lake Town footbridge in AE Block for water. “These taps run thrice a day, from 6am to 8am, 11.30am to 12.30pm and 4pm to 5pm and we are filling eight 10 litre drums every time we go. But the queues are long and we have to wait for an hour and half before we get our turn. If the water finishes we have no other source till the next morning. Our children are going to bed thirsty,” says Amar Ulya, who runs a plastic wares shop in the locality.

Residents say no accident had occurred at the wells thus far. “Children wouldn’t loiter there as it was surrounded by dense bushes and mothers drew water and bathed the kids near their own shanties,” says rickshaw-puller Dukhiram Mondal, who has four children, the youngest being 18 months.

The slumdwellers feel that a four-ft boundary wall around the wells would have served as a prevention against accidents. They are unaware of the legality of the well and do not know by whom or when it was built. “All we know is that the 100-odd people living here are now suffering,” says Nitai Mondal, a resident who works as a domestic help, adding that they will seek help from local councillor Sabyasachi Dutta.

They claim that municipal workers had told them a water tanker would be sent to them once a day but Chakraborty says she never made such a commitment. “When our officials went there for inspection there were no residents in sight so we do not know of anyone suffering. If there are any, they may approach us and we shall try to arrange an alternative source of water for them,” she says.