Zoona Begum, 50, fills a container daily with water from the Jhelum River, which runs through her village in north Kashmir. Begum believes the water is unsafe, but she has no choice but to walk half a kilometer to fill the container with contaminated river water.
The Jhelum River, which flows through Banyari Garbi village in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district, is tainted with animal droppings and raw sewage, causing plenty of diseases among the villagers. However, the village’s only source of water is the river.
As per the villagers, water scarcity has been a problem for the residents of the village for three decades. The villagers claim that they are forced to use contaminated water due to a lack of safe drinking water.
“Our children frequently fall ill as a result of the contaminated water,” said Mukdam Mouhidin Dar, a villager. Another villager had no new stories to tell. “Even the schools in the village have contaminated drinking water,” a local shopkeeper, Javaid Ahmad Dar, told The Kashmir Walla. The villagers claim that outbreaks of waterborne diseases are common in Banyari-Garbi.
The village head, Raziya Ahad said, “In 2005, a tank wasconstructed in the hamlet, but it is still functionless.”
She further added that the water in our village is unsafe, and we sometimes wonder how we are alive. “I personally raised the issue [with the authorities] many times, but nothing has happened so far,” she said.
However, locals claim that the contaminated water is not the only problem that the village faces; it also lacks basic amenities such as frequent power outages, proper roads, and healthcare facilities. The village has 500 households and a population of over 5000 people. The residents said that they feel “neglected and abandoned”.
“All the ailing residents are shifted either to government-run
Community Health Center (CHC) Hajin, or CHC Sumbal for better treatment on carts. There is no substantial facility here,” said another local, Hakeem Habibullah. “Even for pain killers, we have to travel 10 kilometers.”
Because there are no such educational institutes in the village, students are compelled to cross flowing waters in many places to get to primary and middle schools.
“I have to walk for a long distance first, then cross the Jhelum River in a boat that could even capsize,” said Aarif Majeed Dar, a student.
“Every transformer in other nearby villages has been upgraded,” Ahad, the village head, claimed, “but the transformers in our village are the worst in supplying power.”
She claims that there are only three transformers in the entire village and that they frequently fail due to overloading, causing the residents to suffer.
Locals said that no mechanism had been put in place to prevent water from sneaking into the villages. “Every year, 40, 000 acres of paddy fields are flooded by submerging waters that come from all neighboring areas and seep into our paddy fields during the summer. The government is doing nothing for us; how long will we put up with this?” they asked.
There are two localities in the village: Banyari Sharki and Banyari Garbi. The Jhelum River separates the two areas. “People find it difficult to cross the river during the rainy season because Jhelum flows with great fury during that period,” locals said. “There is no bridge here. To cross the river, locals use a ferryboat system made of metal wire.”
Residents of two localities of Banyari are up in arms against the politicians as successive regimes have failed to construct a much-needed bridge in their village. “While as numerous times appeals had been put forward to state administration and political leadership, but to no avail,” locals said.
“We keep crying, but nobody listens to us,” said a group ofwomen while filling the water from the river.