Clean water plant brings hope to village in north India

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A boy helps another to drink water from his hand from a newly set up water filtration tower at a school in Nai Basti Village, some 55 kilometers (35 miles) from in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, March 22, 2017. (AP)
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A boy drinks water from a newly set up water filtration tower in his school provided by Planet Water foundation, a non-governmental organization based in US in Nai Basti Village, some 55 kilometers (35 miles) from in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, March 22, 2017. (AP)
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Schoolchildren learn to wash their hands before drinking water from newly set up water filtration tower in their school in Nai Basti Village, some 55 kilometers (35 miles) from in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, March 22, 2017. (AP)
Updated 22 March 2017

Clean water plant brings hope to village in north India

INDIA: Schoolchildren cheered and village women clapped as a gush of clean water flowed through a set of gleaming steel taps connected to a newly installed water filtration plant in a dusty north Indian village.
Nai Basti is a mere 55 kilometers (35 miles) east of the capital, New Delhi, but access to clean drinking water was a dream for the villagers until Wednesday, when the filtration plant began functioning at a village elementary school.
India has the world’s highest number of people without access to clean water. According to UNICEF, the UN’s children’s agency, nearly 78 million Indians — or about 5 percent of the country’s 1.3 billion population — must make do with contaminated water sources or buy water at high rates.
The lack of clean water contributes to increases in stomach ailments, diarrheal diseases and deaths from waterborne diseases. Around 140,000 children die of diarrheal disease in India each year, a third of the 315,000 such deaths of children worldwide.
The US-based non-governmental organization, Planet Water Foundation, which has built the filtration system in Nai Basti, chose to activate it March 22, marked globally as World Water Day. The nonprofit plans to give access to clean drinking water to 24,000 people through 24 projects in five countries on this day.
School staff and villagers in Nai Basti said access to clean water would transform their lives. Apart from ending the effort of pumping every bucket they need for their use, it would also bring down waterborne diseases sharply.
“Earlier, the children used to drink dirty water. This was groundwater drawn from a bore-well by using a hand pump. They used to fall sick frequently and would not attend school,” said Vinod Sharma, principal of the Brahmaved Inter College in Nai Basti. “We expect attendance to reach 100 percent. And the residents of the village will have access to this water as well,” he said.
Installing the filtration system in the school serves the dual purpose of teaching children basic hygiene such as washing their hands before meals and after using the toilet.
In many ways Nai Basti’s water woes reflect the severe water shortages faced across the country. As rivers and streams run dry, villagers are forced to dig bore-wells and pump up increasingly polluted groundwater. But decades of extracting groundwater for their daily needs has led to a precipitous drop in the groundwater table levels across the country, threatening environmental and human disaster.
India faces chronic water shortages. With climate change, the country’s annual monsoon rains have become more erratic, and traditional water reservoirs have shrunk.
The situation is worse in the cities, where water tables have plunged hundreds of feet, leaving people entirely dependent on tankers which supply water at prohibitive prices. In major cities this has led to the creation of powerful water “mafias,” which control water supplies to neighborhoods.
Nai Basti residents foresee a healthier future with their new access to clean water.
“My worries were for my children who would often fall ill from drinking unfiltered water. They were falling behind in their studies from missing school,” said Jyoti, a housewife, who uses one name.
“That won’t be a problem anymore,” she smiled.


India sends 36 ministers to restive Kashmir on charm offensive

Updated 18 January 2020

India sends 36 ministers to restive Kashmir on charm offensive

  • Ministers are on a five-day outreach mission to connect with people in the valley
  • The ministers’ visit follows a New Delhi-sponsored trip of 15 foreign ambassadors

NEW DELHI: India has dispatched dozens of ministers to its portion of the Kashmir region to promote government projects and development following months of unrest in the area.

Last August New Delhi revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, imposing a security crackdown and a communications blackout. It is India’s only Muslim-majority state and scrapping its semi-independence was the central government’s bid to integrate it fully with India and rein in militancy.

Prepaid mobile and Internet services have been restored although most of the valley remains without the Internet. Landline and post-paid mobile services were restored last month. 

The 36 ministers are on a five-day outreach mission to connect with people in the valley, with media reports saying Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the delegation “to spread the message of development among the people, not only in the urban areas but also in the villages of the valley.”

He was also reported as asking them to tell people about central government schemes that will have grassroot benefits.

The ministers’ visit follows a New Delhi-sponsored trip of 15 foreign ambassadors to the region.

Jammu-based ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Ashwani Kumar Chrungoo said the ministerial trip tied in with New Delhi’s development agenda.

“The ministers will interact with local-level representatives and stakeholders, and discuss the plan for the development of Jammu and Kashmir,” he told Arab News. “Kashmir cannot go back to the old ways. There are no political issues that remain here, all have been sorted out by parliament by abolishing Article 370, division of the state and neutralization of separatist elements.”

But India’s opposition Congress party said the visit was an attempt to “mislead and misguide” the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

“This is a third attempt to mislead and misguide the people of the world, Jammu and Kashmir and India. They are coming here for a third time to tell lies,” Congress leader and the former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Ghulam, Nabi Azad, said.

Dr. Radha Kumar, from the Delhi Policy Group, said that a development agenda would not work without addressing the political issue.

“With all the unilateral decisions to abrogate the special status of the state, arresting all the mainstream leaders and putting the state in a lockdown, how are the government’s actions so far going to establish credibility and legitimacy in the eyes of the people of Jammu and Kashmir?” Kumar told Arab News. “I think this visit is more for international consumption than anything else.”

Dr. Siddiq Wahid, a Kashmiri intellectual and academic, called the visit a “clear sign” that New Delhi had no idea what to do.

“No matter how many ministers you send to Jammu and Kashmir it’s not going to alter the ground situation, it’s not going to address the issue of alienation,” he told Arab News. “What issues will they talk about with people? The government lost the people’s trust long ago.”

The Himalayan region has experienced turmoil and violence for decades. It is claimed in full by both India and Pakistan, which have gone to war twice over it, and both rule parts of it. India’s portion has been plagued by separatist violence since the late 1980s.

Jammu-based Zafar Choudhary, a senior journalist and editor of The Dispatch newspaper, said Modi’s government was full of surprises. “There have never been so many surprises in Jammu and Kashmir as have come in the last two years,” he told Arab News. “There is no instance in the past when so many central ministers have visited a state in one go.”

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