Since she learnt to walk, Vinita Parmar’s first job was to tag along with her mother and siblings a couple of kilometres to fetch water. She grew up following this routine and even after her marriage she would fix a steel pot on her head, and another on her waist, and walk. The whole exercise would take at least three hours each day.
A month ago, however, 20-year-old Vinita’s years long routine came to an abrupt end. Thanks to the local administration, a tap at her doorstep began gurgling water round the clock.
Vinita is a resident of Polapan, a remote village situated on the hilly terrain in Poshina taluka of Sabarkantha district. Polapan is among hundreds of thinly inhabited tribal villages where water supply remains a distant dream and villagers like Vinita spend a minimum three to four hours even in winter fetching water from distant rivers, wells, rivulets and other sources. During summer, the struggle for water only worsens.
“I am happy to have water facility at my doorstep. This is the first time that we have got a tap at our house. The years of walking in search of water seems to have ended. Now, we face problem only when there is no electricity,” said Vinita as she filled her stainless steel pots with water.
Her house is located on top of a hillock, known as Mota Faliya, which houses around 20 families. There are more than 1,000 people in the village, more women than men, according to the 2011 census.
Sabarkantha district officials said around a month ago they started to implement a project called “mini pipe water supply scheme” by Water and Sanitation Management Organisation (WASMO) which is meant for “tribal population which lives scattered and hand pump is the only solution to provide water to them as per the requirement”. The officials said the scheme comprises installation of “single phase power pump on 165 mm diameter bore, storage tank of 10,000 litres and distribution of water on stand post”.
“It’s a path breaking scheme. It saves at least three to four precious hours of women in the region who otherwise would walk miles to fetch water. It has helped the tribal women a lot,” said Sabarkantha district development officer M Nagarajan. However, the scheme is part of a pilot project and if it succeeds the model will be followed by hundreds of similar villages where water crisis still looms large.
According to locals, the success of the scheme depends on power supply, which in the region is erratic, besides maintenance of the machinery. “We have launched this pilot project in eight villages of Poshina taluka which are tribal dominated and due to hilly terrain single phase of water pipeline is almost impossible to lay. We have given the contract of maintaining the machinery to a Rajkot-based private firm for five years,” said R O Purohit, unit manager WASMO.
However, on the narrow bumpy road from Polapan to Poshina town, 20-year-old Jyotsnaben Angari is waiting for the electricity for the past three days. “They (government officers) installed water tap at right next to my house. This has indeed given me much peace, but it doesn’t work when there is no electricity. For the past three days, I have to go the nearby well to get water,” she said. But, the frequent power outages hasn’t dampened the joy of Sakrabhai Parmar of Polapan village who said until a year ago his family members every morning would walk for an hour to fetch water from lake. “This tap water has given us much needed relief,” he said.