‘People need to speak up’

In this photograph taken on July 3, 2015, an Indian householder fills a bottle with dirty water supplied at her home by government agencies in New Delhi. AFP PHOTO/MONEY SHARMA (Photo by MONEY SHARMA / AFP)

I have been staying in Noida Sector-41 for the last 13 years. Here, we frequently have to deal with the issue of contaminated water. Last Wednesday (October 31), the water that was being supplied appeared yellowish and the stench was sewer-like. Initially, we thought that they might have put some medicine in the water for cleaning it. Thinking that it is temporary, we did not consider it a serious issue.

But the problem was persistent and after 2-3 days, the water became really dark in colour, almost black. My husband went to C-Block market where he found that fresh water was being released from the sewer. Then we understood that drinking and sewer water are getting mixed because of a leakage in either the sewer or fresh water line.

When we checked the tank, we saw that the water had turned completely black and was so fetid that I felt like throwing up.

I called up Noida Authority and the RWA of our sector and was shocked when they said that the problem can only be solved after Diwali and we should not expect any kind of solution before that. Despite this response, I went on to explain how serious the issue was, after which they gave me the RWA president’s number. But the RWA president did not answer my call. He never does, even if there’s a fire in your house. Although, he too, stays in C-block.

People are now getting private water tankers to deal with this and for one tanker, they are paying Rs 1,500. Also, most of the people here are using underground water, which is not legal as the underground water level has been declining by the day But people are still using it at the cost of the environment and the authorities are not paying heed to it.

These residents who are flouting the rules justify it by saying that it is their way of handling the contamination problem that they face every 2-3 years.

We have to use packaged mineral water for brushing and washing our face. For the last three days, I have been going to my sister-in-law’s place to take baths. But we are not able to clean the house or wash our clothes due to this. This has brought our lives to a halt.

I have two daughters — a seven and an 11-year-old —and both of them fell ill because of the water. One vomited when she was at her school and I had to take her to the doctor. The medications for the treatment of both my daughters cost me Rs 1,000. None of them had eaten food from outside, so we believe that it was because of the contaminated water.

I also complained about it on the UP CM helpline, but they were asking too many questions, like the name of the district, zila and mohallah. I told them that I am not a public administrative worker or a bureaucrat who would have answers to such questions. I just know the pin code of my area and the district. But they said, ‘if you don’t answer these basic questions’, we will not lodge a complaint.’ Now I do not know what to do. We are still getting sewer water supply and there seems to be no way of getting it fixed.

I have made all possible efforts. Since me and my family members do not wish to deteriorate the environment, we will not use underground water. Getting clean air and clean water is our basic right as a citizen of this country. We are paying so much tax, but not even getting basic facilities. Nobody is even ready to listen.

I can understand that this is the festive season. But all they have to do is employ two or three labourers to fix the pipelines. Is that such a big job? The air in this city is immensely polluted, and that is a different issue altogether. But, here, we are not even getting clean water. Water is not just the basic need of humans, but all living beings. If I even pour this contaminated water on my plants, I am sure they are going to die.

And the authorities are not the only ones to be blamed. The blame should also be put on people who are scared to speak up. People are ready to pay so much, but still not protesting.

Bhavana Malik, resident of Noida Sector-41 (C Block), is an assistant professor at the Jaipuria Institute of Management.
— As told to Shruti Das

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