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Rural Assam faces acute water crisis
Published on 7 Mar. 2010 12:12 AM IST
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: A pot delicately balanced on her waist, Surkhi sets out for her daily five-hour trek to fetch her family’s quota of drinking water from a distant spring. A few paces down, she is joined by her group, clanging their vessels along the un-motorable dusty paths across a cluster of remote tribal villages on the Assam-Meghalaya boundary in Dhubri. Basic amenities are an absurd fantasy in Tangaon, Baghapara, Sadullabari and Kumargathi, where every pail of water means a day’s journey on foot. A single North Eastern Council road leads to the villages but brings little hope for better living conditions. “Drinking water has remained one of the biggest problems for the villagers in this area. The women form groups and walk for miles towards the hills to reach their source of water. Their struggle does not end there. They have to dig up the earth near the hills and when the spring of water surfaces, they collect it in their pots,” said Sukendu Koch, a resident of Tangaon, about 20km from Mancachar town. Koch said it takes four to five hours to fetch a pot full of water, every drop of which is spent judiciously. Bodruzzaman Firdowsy, an academician who writes on the plight of villagers under South Salmara-Mancachar subdivision of Dhubri, said most of the villagers living along the Assam-Meghalaya inter-state border are deprived of basic needs. “Though a very small section of villagers have been able to apply modern technology to increase the production of paddy, a vast population is still lagging behind. But scarcity of drinking water is the primary problem,” Firdowsy said. Subdivisional officer (civil) of South Salmara-Mancachar subdivision of Dhubri district, Sayeed Isfakur Rahman, said he was aware of the scarcity of drinking in these villages and the steps being taken to improve the situation. “A Rs 2-crore drinking water project has been prepared and sent to the government for sanction. If this project is set up, then there should be no scarcity of drinking water,” Rahman said. According official sources, there were 21 drinking water projects in the subdivision but nine have shut down and only seven are functional. There is hardly any sign of any development. Paddy is still cultivated using old-fashioned methods, primary schools have been built only on paper while healthcare facilities are non-existent.

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