Since Saturday, 65-year-old Janardhan Sahoo has had to make tough decisions — how to ration two small buckets of water per day for his family with 20 members.
“I have four sons, each married and with children. We had been surviving on two buckets of water a day. Today we received four buckets and I feel I have won a lottery,” he said.
Four days after ‘Extremely Severe Cyclonic Storm’ Fani ravaged eastern Odisha and disrupted life, many pockets in Bhubaneswar continue to ration water to two buckets per day.
The Indian Express visited slum settlements in the city and found that the larger ones had access to water tankers, sometimes twice a day. The strength of these communities lies in numbers, which can either pressure local government to provide water, or source it themselves.
According to the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation, 184 MLD of water is currently being supplied by the Public Health Engineer Organisation. In the worst-affected areas, water supply is restored with the help of 164 tankers, 114 diesel generator sets and 600 PVC tanks, the corporation claimed.
However, in smaller slum settlements, which are scattered across the city, water shortage is particularly acute as there are not enough people to raise a clamour. In scattered pockets near Patia, Sainik School and Damana, clusters of 10 to 20 families are moving heaven and earth to obtain water.
Janardhan’s slum settlement only has around eight families.
“Generally we allocate water usage for Musa, the youngest, first. In this heat, he is the only person allowed a bath with one mug of water,” said Janardhan’s son, Bijay.
“This allocation is also fair because Musa does not need drinking water,” his cousins say. The teenage girls are piqued that they are not even allowed to wash their faces. Bathing is out of the question.
The rest of the family is on a rigorous drill. Water is used to boil rice and potatoes in the same pot. The residual water is available for anyone who wants a drink.
Only one bucket of clear drinking water remains. It is boiled and cooled so that “no one falls sick”. However, no family member tries to take more than one cup.
“We spent Friday inside a Kalyan Mandap (marriage hall) that was well built and fully stocked with flattened rice and gur provided by the state government,” said Janardhan, glaring at a neighbour’s boy, who was eying one of his buckets. “The day of the storm was comfortable. We are seeing hard days now.”
Janardhan’s neighbour Sarbeswar Das, 42, has volunteered to fetch water on his “dalla auto (open auto)”.
He says he visits different parts of the city, asking for access to all sources of water from handpumps to ponds. He says that sometimes guards in closed office buildings allow him access to taps in the premises so that he can fill a plastic tank mounted on the open space of his auto.
“I have two young boys from our settlement assist me. I can’t fill up the entire tank because it will be too heavy to shift or consume too much fuel to transport,” he says.