HEMGIR (SUNDARGARH):The summer is set to be harsh for nearly 90,000 people of 19 Gram Panchayats (GPs) in coal-rich Hemgir block of the district.
Located about 45 kms from Sundargarh district headquarters town, the block is dotted with hilly terrains and forests and the coal mines of Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd (MCL) are spread across Hemgir.
Though the block annually contributes coal royalty of about `300 crore to the State exchequer, little measures have been taken to provide safe drinking to the people. A majority of the population perennially remains deprived of safe drinking water.
While water of hand pumps is unfit for human consumption at several places, fall in ground water level aggravates the situation during summer.
Hemgir block chairman Upendra Bhoi said remote villages of Hemgir, Gopalpur, Kanika, Garjanjor, Durubaga and Julumbahal face acute shortage of drinking water in summer. However, the headquarters of a majority of the 19 GPs are spared of the water crisis with Rural Water Supply and Sanitation (RWSS) providing piped water. However, piped water supply is limited to only 20 per cent of the population. The RWSS is capable of supplying safe water to hardly 20,000 of the total 90,000 population.
Villagers of the worst affected Budajharia village of Durubaga GP walk long distances to fetch water from a nearby stream or open well as village tube-wells have stopped oozing water.
Junior Engineer, RWSS, Kuna Kisan said of the 1,128 tube-wells about 950 are functional, while of 29 piped water supply projects 26 are functional with each project covering 800 to 900 population. After receiving complaints on toll-free number about non-functional tube wells in Garjanjor, Gopalpur and Hemgir GPs, respective GP offices were informed to take corrective steps, he added.
The villagers of several GPs and other scattered areas are additionally dependent on about 10 water streams and private open wells, Kisan said. Water of the tube-wells at Kendudihi, Garjanjor, Gopalpur, Hemgir, Julumbahal, Kanaktura and other villages is high in iron content and emits foul smell. Administrative sources said extending piped water supply to scattered households at remote and hilly terrains of the block is a big challenge and would not be economically viable.