When Dhatarwadi-I dam was built in 1972, Bhakhshi village trifurcated into three settlements — Bhakshi-I, Bhakshi-II and Bhakshi-III. Of the three settlements, Bhakshi-II is surrounded from three sides by water in the dam.
This year, however, the settlement of around 500 people is facing its worst drinking water crisis and for the first time, tankers are doing rounds.
When the dam is full, water reaches within 1,500 metre of Bhakshi-II, a settlement of farmers. But, by the mid-summer, the water recedes to its minimum level after irrigating crops in downstream villages through canals. The low water level spells trouble for Bhakshi-II.
The dam had overflown in the monsoon and there is still lot of water left in it. But, groundwater level has slipped hundreds of feet below in Bhakshi-II, which is an upstream settlement. There are 10 tubewells in the village, but all have run dry.
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An open well belonging to the panchayat and located in the middle of the village is not in use since a child fell in it and died a few years ago. Now, therefore, women queue up when a tanker, which makes four trips everyday, reaches the village and supplies 20,000 litre of water.
Villagers said aquifers flowing below 100 feet are not useful as the water is salty. Drinking water is not available even at 700-foot depth.
“We cannot draw water directly from the dam as its banks are muddy. On the other hand, Gujarat Water Supply and Sewerage Board (GWSSB) says it doesn’t have water treatment facility in the vicinity and that it cannot supply raw surface water for drinking purposes.
Therefore, we have a lot of water in our vicinity, but none to drink,” said Bhakshi sarpanch Bhanu Pandav, pointing to water in the dam from the terrace of his home.
Most households at Bhakshi-II have tubewells, but none with water. “A 600-foot deep well on our farm provides 500 litre water every day. But, I have to carry that water home every day as I can’t leave two buffaloes, a cow and a pair of bullock at farm for fear of lions,” said Pandav’s father Arjun, while unloading water from his bullock cart.
With the condition worsening, the authorities started running water tankers from April1.
The farmers said desilting the dam can help, but hydrologists differ. “Dams are constructed at sites where the rock is watertight.
Additionally, lava flow in Amreli is horizontal and therefore little chance of water percolation. On top of this, the rock in Amreli district is of basic igneous rock type in which there are no fractures or fissures and therefore holds no water. They might not be able to strike water even at the depth of 1000 feet at Bhakshi. The only solution is water harvesting,” said Jayanti Patel, geohydrologist at the Rajkot regional office of Gujarat Water Resources Development Corporation.
However, sarpanch said the villagers have demanded fund for digging up a new well. “We believe that the long-term solution could be Narmada water. Narmada water reaches till Dolati village, five km away from Bhakshi-II. We hope government thinks about extending the line till our village also,” said the sarpanch, admitting that houses in Bhakshi have no rain-water harvesting system.