Humpora: A Waterless Village
BY: Aaqib Naseem
When Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s sailor in “The Rime of the Ancient Marine” searched for a tumbler full of water to quench his thirst, he wandered but found not even a drop of portable water. He was surrounded by saline water. Same is the case of my village. Just one mile away from Langate (Handwara), we have muddy water everywhere but not a drop to drink.
C O N C E R N
Water is an elixir of life. Kashmir is blessed with roaring rivulets, crystal-clear canals, lovely (fresh water) lakes, but the shortage of water in Kashmir’s urban and rural landscape is a question perturbing even the top environmentalists and climatologists. Otherwise resource rich Kashmir, why are people up in arms for want of water.
Water crisis in Kashmir is getting worse with each passing day. My villagers are facing immense difficulties. Some 30 years ago, water woes started in our hamlet when Langate-Humpora water pipeline was discontinued. Soon after, Zagsundri pipeline was started. Water reached to every household in the neighboring villages of Qaziabad belt viz: Gundchabootra, Zagsundri, Pakhribal but our village was ignored for the reason better known to the PHE (Jal Shakti) officials of Handwara. We have repeatedly approached and registered our protests with then local MLA Engineer Rasheed, district magistrate and even Chief Minister of the erstwhile state but nothing substantial happened so far. We crave for safe drinking water but our pleas fall on deaf ears.
In last few months, during lockdown, I tried to trace why is my village bereft of water? For what sin are we being punished? I keenly observed and listened to the unkind stories to fetch a pitch of welfare, how difficult/harrowing it is for womenfolk in this odd 350 household hamlet. Our womenfolk braving chilly and harsh climate conditions track bumpy tracks to fill pitchers at a spring/tap in the village of Pandithpora and Nahama. They snake through frozen and rough roads in chillai-kalan only to get pure drinking water.They are bathed in sweat in hot summers and quivering with the cold in winters. One can feel the pain in their eyes.
Many a times, I have seen rowdies on the roads who ogle them with lustful eyes. It boils my blood. Once we dig deeper, women of all age-groups in every sequence of life face difficulties in my village just to find water. A girl even during her monthly periods has to walk a mile to get a vessel full of portable water. Even pregnant women and oldies are not spared. They are our own warriors. There are also girls who are shy, and are more concerned about their privacy. They don’t want to leave their vicinity but they can’t do anything with it. Now, even men in our village carry vessels on their shoulders to fill them with fresh water.
Jalshakti sub-division Handwara’s water testing laboratory declared all of our wells contaminated in 2017.When all the options were exhausted, natives tried to cut the pipeline passing through our fields. It transports water to other villages bypassing our hamlet. First Information Report was lodged against four villagers for this act. I talked to one of the victims. He said, “PHE officials handed us stoke of necessary pipes, the whole village joined hands to accelerate the work, after 20 days of continuous hard work we were barely few meters away from our destination when natives of Gundchabootra stopped us. We went to PHE office and left no stone unturned for peaceful resolution but all in vain.” He said that authorities are silently watching and ignoring our pleas. We have literally begged for water but to no avail.
Authorities are making promises and tall claims only on papers. Even in this pandemic we are living on unhygienic, unhealthy and contaminated water. Surrounded by lush-green meadows, streams and dry canals but sans portable water for the residents. My villagers hope against hope that someday soon, they will also gulp down fresh water.
- The writer is a student of Mass Communication and Journalism at Media Education and Research Center, University of Kashmir. He can be reached at: [email protected]