Perumbalam is a beautiful, green, practically untouched island close to Ernakulam, accessible only by ferry. There are 15 common ponds and 8 common wells in the village - the kind that you only get to see in magazines. There are about 2000 homes in the village and possibly as many open wells and borewells. While water is available at fairly shallow levels people have taken to digging borewells as shallow as 8ft. It costs only Rs 4,500 to dig such a borewell (Bangaloreans may find it hard believe !!).
Due to the proximity of the wells to the sea, unlined pits for sanitation disposal , no open well maintenance and poor solid waste management practices (especially for the plastic and rejects) the groundwater is reasonably contaminated. TDS is high and there is bacteriological contamination in the ground water.
A Japan aided water scheme brings clean water to the village from the Muvathupuzha river which is commonly referred to as Japan Water. The connection charges are low/high depending on how you see it and are waived off/lowered in certain cases (BPL, SC/ST etc). The lowest monthly tariff is Rs 61/- and monthly billing has not started as yet. Japan Water is certainly the preferred source of water given its availability and assurance of quality. Due to the possible availability of Japan Water and the reduced confidence in the qulaity of the open well water, the dependence on the ponds and wells and hence the maintenance of the ponds and wells has deteriorated over a period of time. There are small schemes to promote RWH and recharge of wells (a subsidy of Rs 6,000) - but that does not seem to have many takers.
The main trunk line for Japan Water has not been laid all across the village and hence not everyone has access to this water. Not everybody has paid and bought connections either. People are however borrowing/lending water (where possible) and have worked out some system of payments between themselves - once the billing starts. The laying of remaining trunk line will cost a large amount of money and there are no monies or immediate plans for the laying of the remaining trunk line
The panchayat (and the village) thinks that any intervention to help them alleviate their water issues would be to raise the remaining money for laying the JW trunk line so that the entire island can have Japan Water. While there is lip service to the need for maintaining open wells they do not really believe that the open well can be a reliable source of water. The wells still exist, have water and it seems hard to imagine that this cannot be cleaned up
It is inevitable that JW will eventually come to the entire village. It also seems inevitable (given the state of our rivers and our demand for water) that the river will not be able to keep up with the water demand over a period of time. But in that time would Perumbalam have lost its groundwater and its knowledge too ?
This must be an oft played out story. Every time that municipal water has become the water source replacing local ground water. Over a period of time both sources have run out and recovery difficult. Bangalore could also be a case in point. But this is one more time. And the same questions are to be answered.
What would be good steps to take so that the immediate water issues are addressed ? How do we ensure that shallow groundwater continues to remain in peoples' memories and is well managed ?
|A recently cleaned pond|
|A dirty pond|