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Shortage of Water: The missing Holy Grail in the Kumaon region

Anjali Dinesh

19th November 2020

Kumaon an administrative division of the state Uttarakhand is undergoing water shortage. (Source: Wikiwand)

The land of hills, the ‘devabhoomi’ of the country is undergoing a huge water crisis at the moment and it is not one that can be easily fixed. The Kumaon region is an administrative division of Uttarakhand and is home to the lower Himalaya mountain belt. Being part of this belt it encompasses the purest and resourceful elements of nature like trees, water, fresh air and a variety in seasons.

So, how is the water short in such a resourceful region? Poor and lack of water governance, lack of urban planning and distribution, poor tourism management along with climate-related risks, are some of the factors that are responsible for the shortage of water in this region according to a study by The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).

The study also shows several other factors such as inter-linkages of water availability, water supply systems, rapid urbanisation and increase in water demand (both daily as well as seasonal) that are leading to water insecurity in the region. In the hills, due to the scenic views and a wide range of activities offered, every year a huge chunk of tourists fill the streets. This time of the year is known as the seasonal time of the year which usually starts in spring around February and ends with the start of monsoon around August. Seasonal time is the worst for the locals with respect to the water supply. Communities are trying to cope up with the crisis through groundwater extraction but it’s unsustainable.

The districts and localities of Champawat, Kapkote, Bageshwar and Pithoragarh are usually the worst-hit districts in the region. The urban areas of Almora, Champawat and Bageshwar are supplied with just above half of what they require. 60% of the urban area in the region has insufficient water supply as stated by TheTimes of India.

One of the major reasons that are popular among the locals of this region is the lack of rain. The locals firmly believe that over the years and due to climate change the amount it rains every year has decreased a significant amount. This in turn does not fill up the lakes or rivers causing water shortage.

The life of a local here may seem peaceful and calm from afar, but it is that much complicated when one gets close. In the rural areas of the region, women wake as early as 4 AM in the morning even when the temperatures are a whopping -3 degrees celsius outside to avoid standing in queues for water. This water is used for very basic things for them such as drinking and cooking. Washing and bathing are usually done at nearby rivers, streams or small waterfalls for which they must trek about a kilometre or two every day, just to fulfil basic necessities.

As for the life of a local in the urban areas the lifestyle of whom is towards the higher end, water is provided at homes for 3 hours in the morning and 4 hours in the evening, The bathrooms of each individual has a bare minimum of 4 water storage units like buckets and tubs full at all times. Even then, several complaints at the water authorities have been lodged overtime complaining about the lack of water and along with its poor quality.

Lastly, why has no one done anything about it? Well, every election the contenders promise one thing or the other in different places but in the Kumaon region, water is promised. Unfortunately, what is promised is usually forgotten the minute the winning candidate is announced therefore leaving the citizenry of this area is a major problem.

(Sources: Travel and Leisure India, Times of India, Mongabay)

Edited by: Tanya Jain

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