Tripura’s water is killing its tribals
Agartala: In the north-eastern state of Tripura, Ruprai village in Khowai district has just one handpump to meet the entire community’s water needs. There is no piped water connection. The lone handpump too remains defunct from the onset of summer until the water table rises in the monsoon. This leaves the villagers at the mercy of a stream passing through the area, even for potable purposes. Ruprai is 72 kilometres away from the state’s capital Agartala and is home to a 100 or so families, all of them hailing from local tribes, and most of them poor.
All work and no play: One might think these children are playing in the water, but the truth is they are digging up a hole that can hold enough water to fill their pots and buckets. Picture credit: SS Ali
Dying of water shortage: Because they have to consume this dirty water, many villagers contract diarrhoea and other water-borne diseases. The supervisor of the local Primary Health Centre, Pushparani Debbarma, confirmed that come summer season, they get many a patient suffering from water-borne diseases. Villagers four people fell critically ill last summer. This March, a diarrhoea outbreak affected about 200 people and killed eight people in Pyaricherra tea estate in north Tripura. Picture credit: SS Ali
An age-old problem: Since they have no other options, the villagers draw water for drinking and cooking from the same source they bathe. A resident of Ruprai, Vijay Debbarma, said the issue of water scarcity is an old one. He said they have approached the authorities many times but to no avail. With no piped supply, the onus of fetching water falls on the women and children. Picture credit: SS Ali
Not enough funds: Pramika Debbarma, chairperson of the local village committee under Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council, accepted the severity of the water crisis. She said she has repeatedly approached the Block Development Officer concerned. She hoped the new administration under the BJP-led coalition government in the state would take steps to end the years of deprivation. “We have very limited funds of less than one lakh. We cannot do work to take care of the entire population,” she said. Picture credit: SS Ali
A familiar tale: According to Tripura’s Drinking Water and Sanitation Department, about 186 hamlets are suffering from an acute drinking water shortage. The department says water tankers were used during the dry spell last year and the year before to mitigate the problem in crisis-prone localities. According to government figures, all but 18 of the state’s 8,723 habitations get safe drinking water supply. However, more than 1,500 of these habitations are only partially covered. The state government has assured potable drinking water supply in all the habitations of Tripura by year-end. Till then, womenfolk of these localities will have to walk miles every day to fetch dirty water from the nearest stream. Picture credit: SS Ali