ALONG THE route between Bhayander and Gorai on the northern end of Mumbai, large blue drums, many with locks fixed on them, have been a common sight for over a month now.
Residents of villages, including Murdha, Khadi and Morva, have been receiving water only three times a week for less than an hour since February.
Residents are forced to stand on the roadside for as many as two hours, hoping for a passing tanker to stop and fill the drums. The locks are to ensure that there is no theft of the prized commodity or it is to give out a message that it is not open to being shared.
A resident from Bhimnagar, a locality near Bhayander, explained the arrangement, “The tankers bring water from private wells and borewells near Uttan and other villages near Gorai, and provide it to construction sites, resorts, swimming pools in many parts of the city. The drivers transfer some of the water from the tankers to the drums for a fee. This probably forms part of their extra income but it is our only source of water with no water supply for four days.”
The process is quick. The tanker drivers stop the vehicle close to the drums, pour water into them through the green pipes fixed on their vehicles and speed off after taking the decided amount.
“A few days ago, they used to charge Rs 20. The amount has now increased to Rs 50. It is only March. Even water will become unaffordable in the scorching summer months. This area had water problems but it was never as bad as this year,” said Nanda Tapmoge, a resident of Bamandevnagar in Khadi village.
Others added that not all tankers stop, making the wait anywhere between 30 minutes and 90 minutes each day. “If there is only one person waiting, they do not stop. If there are many, they charge extra,” another villager explains.
Apart from the slow force of the water supply and the large number it caters to, many do not have enough utensils to save water for more than a day. They share the cost paid to the tanker driver to borrow water from a neighbour’s drum.
The water is not potable, and on most occasions, is salty and muddy with a tinge of brown or black, residents claim. They added that there is no fixed timing of when the supply is provided by the Mira-Bhayander Municipal Corporation, forcing many people to depend on neighbours.
Geeta Machchi, a 30-year old who works as a house help, said she is usually not at home when the water is supplied by the municipality, leaving her dependent on her neighbours to fill water for her.
“Here, water comes like a guest. There are 10 families with access to one public tap which has water only for an hour. How will it be sufficient for all? Even though it comes only thrice a week, it is not enough to stock up for the rest of the days. We have requested the authorities to have a fixed timing and give us water at least for 15 minutes each day,” Machchi said.
The situation remains the same in other places, including Uttan and Gorai villages. In the Mudhan Pakadi area of Gorai, which has around 50 households, the water supply each evening for an hour is enough only to fill around 250 litres of water.
“Many households have branched out into separate families but the water tap remains common,” said Lydia Crasto, a resident of Mudhan Pakadi.
The old municipal wells in the village are also used as a source of water but no maintenance has ensured that the water cannot be used for most household purposes because of the filth in it, she added.
In the Koliwada areas, while many residents have been given private water taps, most of them have run dry. “We don’t remember the last time there was water in the tap,” said Leena Gabru, a woman in her late sixties and a resident of the Koliwada in Gorai.
“There are times when the fishing boats return at the same time as the water supply is started. There can be no water collected on those days,” said Sandra Gabru, another resident.
The residents gather at the public taps in the area for water each evening for an hour. Last year, the villagers had taken a protest march to a nearby resort, she said.
“There was a huge pipeline supplying water into the swimming pools in the resort. How will the water reach till our homes if all the water is provided to such resorts? We do not know whether that is continuing this year as well but the situation is much worse this year,” Gabru said.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines