‘PHE releases water supply only 1-2 times a month in our village’: Residents of Kangar, Jammu
Jammu: On a typical weekday, you can see school-going children queueing up for water at Kangar village in Bhalwal Zone, 17 kilometres from district Jammu headquarters, to fill their empty bottles. Kangar has seven cemented water tanks with a capacity of 10,000 gallons each, but in summers, except one or two, all others remain dry or get water supply once or twice in a month. The village has three ponds (locally called Tallab), but due to the lack of proper upkeep by the Rural Development Department, their space is also shrinking. With a population of around 1700, Kangar village in the Jammu’s Kandi arid belt is in want of potable water like other Kandi villages in Jammu, Samba, Kathua and Reasi districts during the summers. While the poverty-stricken section of Kangar (mostly Dalits) have to trek or use their donkeys to fetch water from the limited available sources, the rich (primarily upper caste and Muslims) pay for the water tanks.
Mohammad Amin, Sarpanch of the village, said that during summers, when the temperature reaches 43 to 45 degree Celsius, children filling their water bottles from the tap is an everyday affair. He cited the example of Dargali Mohalla, where the Public Health Engineering (PHE) department has provided the first supply of the season.
At Dargali Mohalla, a scenic village located at the hilltop, as claimed by the Sarpanch, scores of people from far off localities (Mohallas) of Kangar, including Karadka Khoo, Butiala, Chatta Mohalla, Bandiyan, Jiani, gather around the water tap fitted to the cemented water tank and waiting patiently in queue for their turn to fill their empty buckets.
62-year-old Gushan Ram is the most jubilant of the lot as he has two donkeys which will help him carry eight gallons of water back home. “My family will use this water for the next four days. After it is spent, I will fetch water from the water tank at Kangar or other tanks as and when they get the next supply,” said Gushan Ram.
In the Upper Dargali Mohalla, the Dargali Government Primary School, which was upgraded under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), has two toilets for the tiny tots, but in summers, they remain locked due to the scarcity of water in the village. “Thus, the children carry water bottles with them for drinking and washing up,” revealed 65-year-old Gillo Ram.
Quoting a statement issued by Secretary School Education Department, Jammu and Kashmir, Kashmir Valley-based newspaper, Kashmir Reader reported in February this year that according to Uniform District Information System for Education (U-DISE) 2017-18, as many as 5, 433 schools in Jammu and Kashmir didn’t have access to drinking water facility.
The report said that of the schools deprived of the drinking water facility, 3, 030 are in Jammu division, and 2,078 in the Kashmir division. “In Ladakh division, 230 schools in Kargil, and 95 in Leh don’t have a water connection. There are total 22, 627 schools in Jammu and Kashmir,” read the newspaper report.
Parveen Abrol, Junior Executive Engineer (JEE) at the Public Health Engineering (PHE), admitted that there is severe water shortage in the village but he assured that the residents would be getting regular supply soon as a bore well of capacity around 8,000 to 10,000 gallons per hour is being dug in the village under the National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) scheme.
Speaking to 101Reporters, Abrol said, “Our entire system, including the pipes, lifting pumps, motors, valves, have not been changed for many years. To ensure round the clock water supply, we need to give an overhaul to our entire PHE system which we are doing in a phased manner.”
Parveen revealed that the authorities release water from Masjid Mohalla and Bhalwal (source) in an interval of three or four days, or they release the water from to all the seven water tanks in the Kangar village, but before reaching the particular water tank, a massive portion of the water is consumed by the locality around the water sources (Masjid Mohalla, Bhalwal) which is at the slope. “Hence, the claim of the villagers is true that the cemented tanks in their locality get only around five to six feet of water, that too after so many days,” added Parveen.
Parveen attributed power cuts during the summers are the other reasons behind the PHE’s failure to ensure round the clock water supply in the Kandi villages.
When contacted, Ramesh Kumar, District Development Commissioner (Jammu), said that he’d deploy a team to resolve the issue.
Sanjeev Verma, Divisional Commissioner (Jammu) was not available for comments.