On a normal day, the women have to make two trips to the water source to fetch about 20 litres of water.
Bifni and other women from her village wake up each morning to walk for about 8 km to fetch water in this harsh summer. The closest they find water these days is where an open nullah dried up recently. The women dig the ground for water – sometimes with their bare hands – to find some water a few feet below. Sonnagar is a remote village within the Sonbhadra district – it’s about 450 km from state capital Lucknow
On a normal day, Bifni has to make two trips to the water source to fetch about 20 litres of water for her family of three. In a city, this much water would be enough for two flushes in a toilet. For a village of 1,200 people, there is not a single hand pump in the village. And no piped water supply.
“If the government gives us a hand pump, at least then an old person like me will not have to walk so much to get just a little water. It is a big problem to walk up and down like this,” says Bifni Devi.
The government claims it can’t install hand pumps because the ground water table is extremely low as there was scanty rainfall last year as well.
“The bigger problem is that the water level in many such villages has fallen so low that we are unable to get normal hand pumps to work there. But we are trying to provide deep borings in such places and to supply water through these,” says Amit Kumar, Sonbhadra’s district magistrate.
Four years ago, the government of India approved a World Bank funded rural water supply project for 10 Eastern UP districts including Sonbhadra. It has 30 piped water schemes in place, and another 70 micro level ones run by solar energy – at least on paper. But these cover less than half the villages.
The government says around 400 tankers are supplying water to remote villages and that about 1,000 ponds have been deepened to hold more water once the monsoon arrives but on the ground things seems very desperate for these villagers.