For many people in Himachal Pradesh, many 21st century conveniences have yet to arrive, such as the easy and immediate availability of water, especially drinking water.
The situation came to a head earlier this year, with residents of the Theog region of Himachal staging multiple protests, demanding water supplies. CNBC-TV18‘s Santia Gora reports that even water promises during the current election campaign do not hold much water.
Saraswati Devi Sharma, 50, has lived in Kariyal village in Theog region of Himachal for 31 years and every day she had to walk more than 5 kilometers over hilly terrain to get water not only for his family to drink, but for everyday use.
15 years ago the state government installed taps and now Kariyal had access to water, but there is no water in these taps. Sharma said, “I walk for miles to fetch water. We have been facing water supply difficulties for years now.”
One kilometer from Kariyal is the town of Bekhalti. Residents of this area have staged multiple protests this year to demand the water supply, but the protests have not borne fruit.
Adding insult to injury is the fact that Theog has seen the installation of water tanks under government schemes like the Giri Water Scheme, but the water under this scheme goes to cities and not to households in the surrounding rural area.
The Himachalis navigate one way or another during the summers, but when the snow blocks the roads for days and even the water trucks cannot reach these hilly areas, people are left without water for days. .
People have no choice but to store snow, melt it, boil it and then use it. People in Himachal Pradesh are struggling for their basic needs, but the state government says the problem is not that bad.
Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur said: “In 2018, there was water shortage for a small period, but the problem is not that serious.”
But government data says otherwise. Records of Himachal Pradesh government’s Jal Shakti Vibhag show that until December 2021, the state government was providing households with 40 liters of water per capita per day, which is far below the needs of 70 liters of water per capita per day.
In a recent report to the Asian Development Bank, the state also admitted that “most water pipes are in very poor condition and leaking.” Even in urban areas, the state administration has accepted that there is at least 25% water wastage due to leakage.
The situation becomes dire, especially with the approach of winter once again. But the feeling is one of frustration as the various state governments have not done enough to address the problems on the ground. Installing taps and hand pumps is only a paper record and there is little hope that the next government will do much better.