The monsoon season this year has brought with it the early signs of merriment and misery for the people. Many people have welcomed the rain which ended a long spell of drought and excessive heat. Farmers are already busy planting rice in their fields. The long hours of power outage are getting shorter. Hopes for adequate drinking water supply have increased. But then, news stories of floods, with missing people and lost lives, are also starting to come in. News photographs are showing water-logged streets causing problems to drivers and pedestrians. News of the season about the excess or the scarcity of water, often called the elixir of life, has begun to trickle in.
However, in remote Bhaluwajor, the news is more about the dirt than the water. For years, the area has been facing an acute water shortage. Villagers here fetch their drinking water from the Tamakoshi River, which is half an hourís walk away. It is sad that even the teachers of the local school have to go all the way down to the river early in the morning to collect water to meet their daily needs. This same water is harming the health of students, teachers and villagers. With the onset of the monsoon, the rain sweeps all the garbage from the upper hills down into the river. According to locals, the people drinking the dirty water begin to catch cough and cold.
This was not the case 20 years ago. Locals used fresh water from the Lidekhola of Hattiar, Majhigau. When the river dried, the water shortage began. The quality of water in the Tamakoshi River degraded over the years as the locals threw animal carcasses, among other things, into it. The school children drinking the river water suffered from fevers, stomach aches, jaundice and cough. Angry villagers say that the administration has done nothing to ameliorate the situation. The officials of the Drinking Water and Sanitation Division see no immediate alternative to supplying clean water to the residents of Bhaluwajor. The villagers do not have water sources above where they live.
Drying of water sources is a sinister thing happening over the decades across the hills and mountains. It is often attributed to the changing climate of the globe. To alleviate the situation, however, the local people can play a role in maintaining their immediate ecology. In the particular case of Bhaluwajor, the district authorities and local civil society organisations would do well to work with the villagers in designing interventions, such as ensuring a proper garbage disposal system in the upper parts of the Tamakoshi, especially before the onset of the monsoon, and in harvesting and treating rainwater for the entire village. Or, together, they could come up with some other innovative options.