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Mathuranpura & Mahoba: World’s worst water starved places reflecting worsening drought situation in North India
By NewsGram Staff Writer
Mathuranpura, a particularly poor neighbourhood in Mahoba, one of India’s 250 poorest districts is home to 1,000 dalits and where few things are as exclusionary as access to water.
None of the 1,000 dalits who live in mostly mud-and-thatch homes have regular jobs (the majority are construction workers), there is no school in the neighbourhood and none of their homes has piped water.
On June 23, three months after bountiful but unseasonal rains destroyed crops and imperilled farming – as we reported earlier – Mathuranpura’s dalits went to the district magistrate, Vireshwar Singh, with a petition: Give us a water pipeline.
A year ago, a water pipeline was laid, a group of Mathuranpura residents told Khabar Lahariya. It stopped at the house of the panchayat (council) chairman, who, they alleged, did not allow the pipeline to be extended to their mohalla, or neighbourhood.
So dire is the crisis in this water-starved district that locals sometimes dig tunnels some distance from their villages to collect water seeping from the ground, their main source of water, Khabar Lahariya previously reported.
It is a reflection of a quietly, worsening groundwater situation, not just in Mahoba – 240 km southeast of the Uttar Pradesh capital Lucknow – but across northern India. The situation has been given little attention by the government or media. As a column in The Guardian pointed out, when water is overused or unavailable, it takes only poor management to plunge a region into crisis.
Mahoba’s crisis came rapidly, when its once plentiful water sources were polluted or otherwise devastated (as we shall see later). Mathuranpura’s water source is a handpump, which yields little water. The locals said their “arms were exhausted” working it and they were tired queuing up day and night. The water reduces, and the waits get longer. So, they want that pipeline.
District magistrate Singh said he has taken the petition with “some seriousness” and in the presence of Khabar Lahariya reporters, ordered the water department to lay a pipeline to Mathuranpura.
If this happens, Mathuranpura should consider itself lucky. No more than 7 percent of Mahoba district’s people have a drinking-water source at home or in their compounds, according to census data.
In rural Mahoba, 95.3 percent of people have no access to tap water from a treated source; although more than 30 percent of village households have access to tap water.
Mathuranpura and Mahoba’s situation is not unusual in India, where 22.2 percent of rural households get their drinking water from a source that is at least half a kilometre away from home. More than 116 million Indian households in villages cannot access water from a tap. Only 7 percent households have drinking water sources within their compound in the villages of Mahoba district.
It will be ever more difficult to supply those households with water because more than half of India now faces what is called “high” to “extremely high” water stress. Across parts of northern India, skyrocketing demands on water for agriculture and growing populations have pushed groundwater to levels more critical than anywhere else on earth.
The situation is as grim on the Gangetic plains, and a variety of studies reveal a common trend.
After the winter deluge, a great water scarcity has fallen across Mahoba, indicating the vagaries of life without an assured supply of water.
Despite being known as the land of talaabs, or ponds, the access to drinking water supply is limited. Most of these large and beautiful water bodies are now dirty and badly maintained. There has been no work or special schemes that may make the water potable. In Charkhari block, which has seven large taalaabs, several homes are now served by domestic drainage, but the drains empty into a pond.
The major river in Mahoba, Chandrawal, first showed signs of drying up a decade ago, but a drought in 2008 was the final blow. Efforts are being made to revive the river only now.
Even as groundwater levels drop, Mahoba – and northern India – has no option but to continue with the effort to supply drinking water, whether piped in from rivers or from groundwater sources, such as borewells and lakes.
The budget for fiscal 2015-16 has been earmarked Rs 11,000 crore for the centrally-sponsored National Rural Drinking Water Programme – now a part of the Swachh Bharat (clean India) mission – launched in 2007 to provide safe drinking water to 116 million deprived households in India’s villages. Delhi provides financial assistance to states and union territories for drinking water projects and water-quality testing.
But no funds have been released this year to Mahoba, so far.
With funding from Delhi declining because of financial devolution-the process of handing over money to the states to do their own spending-it is uncertain what lies ahead for Mahoba.
(In arrangement with IndiaSpend.org, a data-driven, non-profit, public interest journalism platform. This story has been produced in partnership with Khabar Lahariya, a rural, weekly newspaper run by a collective of female journalists from five districts in Uttar Pradesh and one in Bihar. Each district has its own edition, brought out in the local language of the district.
(With inputs from IANS)
The Centre will launch a pilot project on the use of indigenously manufactured drones for delivering medicines in the undulating landscape of Jammu and surrounding areas from Saturday with a focus on vaccines delivery initially. "This is going to be a pilot project for the area. The drone is developed and manufactured entirely by our scientists," Union Minister for Science & Technology, Dr Jitendra Singh told mediapersons. Singh said he himself will be launching the project at Jammu.
The drone is developed by the scientists at Bengaluru's National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), a constituent of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), an autonomous Society that is headed by the Prime Minister. For now, the delivery would be limited to Covid vaccines and once successful, it would be expanded to be used for regular delivery of medicines in the remote, hilly areas.
The drone is developed by the scientists at Bengaluru's National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL). | Photo by Jason Blackeye on Unsplash
Jammu and surrounding areas are sensitive in terms of the strategic importance. Some months ago, there was an attack on an Army installation using drones. Will the 'drones for vaccines' be permitted in such a case? Allaying fears, a top official from the Ministry of S&T said, "The drones would be deployed by authorised agencies such as hospitals, not anybody can use it, nor would any random person be permitted to use it."
NAL has called the drone as 'Octacopter' and it can fly at an operational altitude of 500 m AGL and at maximum flying speed of 36 kmph. It can be used for a variety of BVLOS applications for last mile delivery like medicines, vaccines, food, postal packets, Human organs (such as heart for heart transplantation) etc. NAL Octacopter is integrated with a powerful on-board embedded computer and latest generation sensors for versatile applications like agricultural pesticide spraying, crop monitoring, mining survey, magnetic geo survey mapping etc., S&T officials had said. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: Jammu, Vaccines, Medicines, Deliver, Drones, Centre
Bollywood actor Abhishek Bachchan shares how he feels when people compare him with his father Amitabh Bachchan on the singing reality show 'Sa Re Ga Ma Pa'. He also requests contestant Rajshree Bag to sing a track 'Bahon Mein Chale Aao' featuring his mother Jaya Bachchan.
Abhishek said after looking at the performance of Rajshree, who is often compared with Lata Mangeshkar on the show, that she reminds him of being compared with his father. "Rajshree, whenever I have got the chance to watch the show, I've seen people compare you to Lata didi. It actually reminded me about how people compare me with my father and ask me how I feel about it."
According to him Amitabh Bachchan is a great actor in the industry and this is what he says to everyone making these comparisons. "My answer to them is that there's no greater actor in this film industry than Amitabh Bachchan and if I'm being compared to him, I am sure I must have done something good."
"Similarly, your voice has a different kind of magic like Lata ji and that's why people are comparing your voice with her. I feel you should always take this as a compliment," he concluded. 'Sa Re Ga Ma Pa' airs on Saturday and Sunday on Zee TV. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: Abhishek Bachchan, Amitabh Bachchan, reality show, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, Rajshree Bag
Winters in India have always beckoned for that hot, steaming bowl of tomato and pepper rasam or the mellow, millet based Raab. Certain dishes like sarson ka saag, undhiyu, nimona pulao are winter specialites in the country. Seasonal food has always been an Indian speciality -- we switch our choice in fruits, vegetables, sometimes even grains with the onset of different season. The preference of using specific ingredients during certain climates is visible in our sweets as well. It's common to find local and traditional delicacies made of jaggery, instead of sugar during the winters. Case in point -- the Nolen Gur Rasgulla, a speciality made in Odisha and West Bengal between November to February.
Celebrity chef, Sanjeev Kapoor, strongly advocates this need of eating seasonal produce. He says, "The beauty of our food is in our seasonal usage of fruits and vegetables. If you realise, Gajar ka halwa is made aplenty during winters as this is the season when beautiful red carrots hit the market or mango pickle is made during summer, thanks to its availability. Despite people and sometimes, even me, suggesting that we should eat fresh as well as seasonal fruits and vegetables, we do not know what chemicals are sprayed on them to keep them safe while they are growing. When this produce hits the market, there isn't a certifying agency like the FSSAI that will help people understand what vegetables and fruits are free of pesticides and germs and which ones don't. Hence, the onus lies on us to make them safe for consumption. ITC's Nimwash is a good solution."
When it comes to winters, the Chef recommends eating these fruit and vegetables:
* Purple Mogri -- Mogri or Radish pods are not a common sight throughout the country. But you can spot them during the winters in local markets in northern India where women pick them up to make raitas, curries and stir fries. Rich in magnesium, calcium and copper, the vegetable is known to aid people from digestive problems.
Mogri or Radish pods are not a common sight throughout the country, but you can spot them during the winters | Pixabay
* Sweet Potato -- A re-discovered favourite, Sweet potatoes have created a space for itself in the millennial kitchen. With its diverse addition in burgers, chips and even chat, the root vegetable is filled with nutrients such as fibres and vitamins.
Sweet potatoes have created a space for itself in the millennial kitchen. | Wikimedia Commons
* Avarekalu -- Called Hyacinth beans in English, Avarekalu is a winter speciality in the south that is added to sambhar, saagu, rotis, etc. Bangalore is famed for its Averakalu mela during the winter months, where you can find these beans in dosas, Pani puri and even Jalebis! Thronged by crowds from all over the city, the food fest is a gourmand's delight.
Called Hyacinth beans in English, Avarekalu is a winter speciality in the south that is added to sambhar, saagu, rotis, etc. | Wikimedia Commons
* Amla -- The Indian gooseberry is a common winter fruit found through the country. High in Vitamin C, it is known to be immunity building and extremely beneficial for the skin and hair. There are multiple ways to eat Amla -- it is pickled, made into a fruit preserve called as Murraba or even eaten by sprinkling salt over it.
The Indian gooseberry is a common winter fruit found through the country. | Pixabay
(Article originally published on IANSlife) (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: winter, Sanjeev Kapoor, chef, Indian gooseberry, Sweet Potato, Radish pods