Cyclone Aila victims face acute drinking water crisis


"We usually drink pond water. But the pond water stinks from carcasses of animals after the storm," said Shilpi Mullick, waiting for a government ferry which arrives once in three to four days at Jamespur, South 24-Parganas district.

Initially four vessels were deployed, but now only one remains. Water reaches late as it is being rationed in rotation, Gosaba's Block Development Officer, Amiya Bhusan Chakraborty told a visiting PTI Correspondent.

The underground water was too saline to be tapped and there was no drinking water source in that area Chakraborty said adding that water is supplied from Luxbagan to places like Satjelia but it could not be provided here for geographical reasons.

Meanwhile Chandan Maity, Convenor of Aila-affected Peoples' Committee, said, "More vessels should ferry drinking water. The authorities must dig more tubewells as soon as possible. It is a shame that people drink polluted water more than 60 years after Independence".

Members of the Committee claimed that two lakh villagers did not get water because of government apathy and they were planning to demonstrate before the BDO's office.

The BDO, however, said that it would soon install more than 200 tubewells in the island.

The drinking water crisis was more acute in areas located in the middle of the island with residents complaining of insufficient and poor quality of relief material supplied.

"We get only five kg rice and 300 grams of dal from the government. The rice gives off a foul smell after boiling," Rekha Mondal of Parashmoni village said while residents of Kumirmari and Choto Mollakhalin islands complained of living on one square meal a day.

"Many farmlands are filled with saline water. Paddy yield would be very low this year even if there is good monsoon. If relief supply is stopped then these people would die of starvation and malnutrition," Bikash Sashmal, another Convenor of the Committee said adding they have requested the authorities to distribute relief materials till the next harvest.

The BDO, however, claimed that sufficient relief material was being provided. Besides, dal, flattened rice, powder milk and mustard oil, an average 300 sacks of rice were distributed to each gram panchayat, Chakraborty said.

Meanwhile, hundreds of villagers suffered from diarrhea two weeks ago after drinking contaminated water.

According to UNICEF, 28 diarrheal deaths were registered and over 85,000 cases were reported from the Aila-hit districts of West Bengal.

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