2/3rds of Mumbaikars walk a mile for water
Sukhada Tatke, TNN, Feb 17, 2011, 02.52am IST
MUMBAI: Mumbaiis proud of its status as the country’s richest city, but shamefully, two-thirds of its residents have to slog away for hours a day to procure as basic a necessity as water.
According to a study by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences(Tiss), a majority of the city’s population, which lives in slums, wastes the workday or school time in collecting potable water.
Women are the worst sufferers, 87.5% of whom are engaged in the perilous task. Perilous because every day, they travel on an average 1.5km to the source of distribution and come back to their shanties bearing 40kg buckets on their head.
Such a load can be harmful for the spine, leading to deformities and arthritis, not to speak of other injuries. The arduous task also effectively reduces their calorie intake, as much energy is expended in the activity.
The study was carried out to understand the impact of irregular water supply on people who live in slums established after 1995, to which the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation( BMC) does not supply water. It covered a population of about 2 lakh people in 21 slum communities across the city.
The statistics are alarming: 35% of adults skip work and 69% of children skip school to collect water; 81% bring home water, carrying the buckets on the head, needing on average three hours to do so. The people end up skipping work or school since the supply comes between 8 am and 2 pm. While 81% buy water, only 19% have access to tap water at home.
The water doesn’t come cheap. The cost is Rs 5 for 35 litres, making the average monthly expenditure Rs 600 for a daily consumption of 150 litres. This is a huge sum for families earning Rs 3,500 a month on average.
“People have to buy water from middlemen, who procure it illegally,” said Simpreet Singh of the National Alliance of People’s Movement. The slum dwellers pay 30 times more than the prescribed rate for water.