“Water Woes: Hand Pumps Dry Up in Tarai Even During Mid-Monsoon”

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Birgunj and its vicinity reel as most settlements report drying up of hand pumps, borewells in past two months.

Ajay Chaurasia hasn’t had a good night’s rest for the past few days since he has been waking up at 4am to arrange for drinking water. He fetches three jars of water for the day’s use from his neighbour’s hand pump and tries to go back to sleep.

Chaurasiya, a resident of Gahawa in ward 8 of Birgunj Metropolitan City, says if he doesn’t collect water from his neighbour’s early in the morning, he will have to go without water the entire day.

“We can lift little water through the neighbour’s hand pump in the morning. There won’t be water for drinking and cooking if we fail to manage water,” said Chaurasiya, who runs a paan (betel leaves) shop at Maisthan.

Most of the hand pumps in Gahawa settlement run dry even during the monsoon season. The metropolis has installed a few taps in the settlement to address the drinking water shortage, but the locals say the water from the taps is murky and not fit to drink. “The tap water is not potable. We use tap water to wash clothes and dishes,” said Chaurasiya. “The tap water has helped a bit for other purposes, but we still don’t have drinking water.”

Santosh Patel of Chhapkaiya in ward 2 of the metropolis has not used the hand pump in his compound since it went dry two months ago. “We have been facing an acute water crisis after the pump dried up. Our lives revolve around managing water. I haven’t been able to focus on work and my children haven’t been able to give time to studies,” he said. “We all get busy arranging for water.”

According to him, the locals have some respite after the metropolitan city started distributing water through water tankers twice a day.

Birgunj and its surrounding areas are reeling under water shortage as most settlements report drying up of hand pumps over the past two months. The locals are concerned since hand pumps always had an abundant supply of water during the rainy season in previous years.

“The hand pumps have run dry in Brigunj and its vicinity around two months ago. We face water shortages every year in the dry season. But the water shortage during the rainy season was unheard of,” said Bishweshwar Kurmi of Pipra.

The locals of ward 14 of the metropolis submitted a memorandum to their ward chair last week, urging the officials to resolve the drinking water crisis.

Sakhuwaprasauni Rural Municipality and Bahadurmai Municipality in Parsa are also reeling under water shortage. The local units have no alternative, but to distribute water through the water tankers.

People’s representatives and party leaders have urged the government and the authorities concerned to immediately solve the drinking water problem. “We drew the attention of Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Drinking Water Minister Mahindra Raya Yadav about the water crisis in Parsa,” said Pradeep Yadav, a member of the House of Representatives elected from Parsa constituency No 1.

According to environmentalists, the over-extraction of riverbed materials in the Chure area, haphazard installation of deep bore wells, destruction of wetlands, encroachment of rivers and rivulets, rampant concretisation and less rainfall in the area this year are the major causes of the water crisis.

“Exploitation of the Chure region is the main cause that has led to the drying up of hand pumps in Tarai. Water recharge system has been disturbed due to the haphazard extraction of riverbed materials in the rivers and streams in the Chure region,” said Bijaya Kumar Singh Danuwar, a researcher working on the interrelationship of Chure and Tarai.

With the hand pumps running dry, more people have been applying for municipal water connection. But the metropolis’ employees say they install new water taps at people’s homes owing to high demand and lack of funds.

Rajeshman Singh, the mayor, argues that the current water crisis is the result of rapid depletion of underground water. He said the metropolitan city plans to install around 4,000 taps in various wards. “And we will instantly keep water tanks with 10,000 litres in other places that do not have pipelines,” said Singh.

According to the data available at the drinking water unit of Birgunj Metropolitan City, there are 47,114 households in Birgunj. “There are around 27,490 hand pumps in private houses and public places. Around 90 percent of those hand pumps have dried up now,” said Bhogendra Chapagain, chief at the unit. According to him, currently piped water is being supplied to only 12,925 houses in the metropolis.

Source: The Kathmandu Post