BAGEIBIRA (BARGARH):While high temperature levels are not new to the Sambhalpur region of Odisha, deficient rainfall of last year and early onset of summer this year combined have made life miserable for the people.
To add to their woes, water shortages have become more acute with both traditional water harvesting structures (TWHS), which had catered to people’s water needs for decades, drying up and piped water supply schemes failing badly.
The situation can best be gauged with a visit to Bageibira village, barely 10 km from the district headquarters of Bargarh. Inhabited by 2,000 people under the Govindpuir Panchayat of Bargarh Block, the village was happy when a piped water scheme under Swajaldhara Yojana was launched in 2006.
The project was developed with central funding of Rs 2.14 lakh while villagers chipped in with Rs 24,000. But with the groundwater level dipping, the project failed. This has brought untold miseries upon villages even as the existing two TWHS sources – Banji Kata and Tali Bandh – have almost dried up, leaving only ankle-deep muddy water.
Deficit rainfall last year rendered the TWHS defunct and the only source of water left for the 2,000 people is a lone tube well 3 km from the village.
One villager, Bilas Mallick (60) said he has never encountered such a water crisis since his birth in the village. He said the water problem has forced many parents of would-be brides to cancel proposals as they know the hardship their daughter would have to face. Another villager, Lata Kuanr said villagers wake up every day with the tension of having to collect water. “More than water we are afraid about being struck down by a heat stroke,” he said. With water supply projects failing, people are turning to packaged drinking water.