Saurashtra, Gujarat: It’s not summer yet but almost 4,000 villages in Gujarat’s Saurashtra region are reeling under acute water shortage. And there’s little sign of the situation improving. Angry and desperate, villagers in the region are knocking on the doors of their panchayats, but to little avail.
In Paniya, a village in Amreli district, it has been days since water tankers have made an appearance. Sonalben, standing by a well where the tankers are meant to reach, told NDTV, “We have to be up day and night to wait for the tankers… we have even come here in the middle of the night, but there is no water. We can purchase some drinking water but not non-potable water. Our children have not bathed in days.”
Saurashtra is a drought prone region and received very poor rains last season. Nine hundred villages are now drought-hit and 2,979 more are under partial drought. 4,000 villages are desperate for water Despite Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s claims that the Narmada project has covered the entire state, in large parts of Saurashtra, almost 30 per cent of the canal network is incomplete. Villagers therefore have to depend on tankers to supply them with water. They allege that the government was late to respond to their woes after poor monsoons last year.
Things have reached such a head that some of the villagers have begun bartering their belongings in return for water. Bhuriben said, “If we give one can of kerosene, then somebody (who has stocked water) agrees to let us wash our clothes. But this can’t go on.”
Anandiben Patel, the Revenue Minister of Gujarat, however claims that adequate water supply has been arranged for. “We are providing water by tankers. The pipelines that were to be laid have been laid. We are even providing a lot of water from the Narmada project.”But these are empty words for the thousands of villagers who have to wait endlessly for that elusive pot of water.