Kanpur: The average water consumption has more than doubled in urban and semi-urban areas of the arid Bundelkhand region in Uttar Pradesh because of a focus on maintaining hygiene to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic, a study by Jal Jan Jodo Abhiyan and Parmarth, a voluntary group, has found.
Sanjay Singh, the group’s national convenor, said the rise in water use could be attributed to repeated hand washing, home cleaning, and washing of clothes. “We have analysed the water being supplied from two biggest dams Mata Teela and Pahuj and found that the water consumption has jumped one-and-a-half-times,” he said.
Mata Teela supplies 110 MLD and 40 MLD through two waterworks plant and Pahuj provides 5.5 MLD to Jhansi and other areas. “Earlier 80% of the water was being used but after the [Covid-19] lockdown was announced, the consumption became cent percent. More so, the water is [also] made available to people through a network of tankers,” said Singh, who is known as ‘the waterman’ in Bundelkhand, where he has been working on water conservation for 20 years.
The demand for water further increased with the return of the migrant workers left jobless by the lockdown.
A looming water crisis is weighing heavily on the women, who traditionally have shouldered the responsibility to collect and conserve water. “The women are troubled because of the heightened demand for water which is available through pipelines and handpumps in 10% of total households in Bundelkhand,” Singh said.
“At present, on average, a person is washing hands six to seven times a day. People are cleaning their homes multiple times. They are using more water to clean vegetables and other commodities leading to a rise in water consumption.”
Officials said at least 24% of handpumps were not working in the region and their repair has been hampered because of the pandemic.
Bundelkhand faces water shortage because of its unique granite topography, which does not allow rainwater to seep in and recharge the groundwater table. The region has 20 dams and seven rivers, which are its main water sources of water along with reservoirs and ponds.
Singh said 70% of water is used for agriculture, and about 12 to 15% for industrial and personal consumption in Bundelkhand, which has faced two major droughts in recent years. “The government should at war footing initiate measures to repair and desilt reservoirs, wells and ponds as the water crisis in Covid times is bound to become serious.”
Uttar Pradesh Jal Shakti minister Mahendra Singh admitted the water consumption has gone up but said the government has ensured availability to all. “We have set control rooms at the block level to state level and I am personally monitoring the situation every day; the policies and work on the ground of state government is such that there has been no complaint of water shortage in the last three years in Bundelkhand,” he said.