Water, water, only to swim.Bengal’s driest district, gets pool ‘gift’ from local body.Water, water, only to swim
- Purulia, Bengal's driest district, gets pool 'gift' from local body
Oct.12:Gift for parched Purulia at a time it has seen rainfall plumb a near four-decade low: a swimming pool.
Bengal's driest district today saw its CPM-run zilla parishad open the Rs 1.1-crore pool that can hold 1.7 lakh gallons of water even as throngs of villagers have to walk over 1km every day to get potable water.
Sports minister Kanti Ganguly presided over the inauguration where officials, betraying little unease at their warped sense of priorities in the arid zone, bragged about how the pool would boost sports facilities.
Purulia has seen the lowest rains this season since 1972. "The ground water level in the district is the lowest in Bengal. Rainfall has been 745mm against the 1,400mm annual average. Only 10 per cent of the 2.8 lakh hectares of cultivable land have seen crops planted," said deputy agriculture officer A.K. Kundu.
Locals said the swimming pool should not have been on the list of zilla parishad's priorities. "We understand that our district needs sports facilities. But we feel more stress should be given on solving the drinking water problem in rural areas," said farmer Parimal Majhi.
Zilla parishad officials claimed progress in solving the drinking water problem, saying they had now installed one tubewell for 50 villagers compared with one such water device for 500 people two years back.
But villagers in at least four blocks suggested otherwise. "There is only one tubewell for our village of 350 people," said Khagen Singh Sardar, whose daughter-in-law has to queue up almost an hour every day before she can return with two jugs of water in Kharkadoho village of the Bandwan block.
A similar picture unfolds at Ashonboni in Para block, the area from where the present zilla sabhadhipati, Bilasibala Sahis, used to be elected an MLA. "From March every year, there is severe water shortage. Our folks have to go to neighbouring villages to get water, both for drinking and washing," said Mithan Majhi.
Only 14km from the pool inaugurated today is Pandrama, where residents have to walk over a kilometre to get clean drinking water.
"The water from the tubewell in our neighbourhood is not drinkable and we are forced to go to another village," said Labaghana Mahato.
The pool appears to have gone against the tide in other ways too: adults will have to pay Rs 300 per month for an hour of swimming every day, a sum far beyond the means of the average person in the district.
The authorities, though, are not content with having made a splash today. Minister Ganguly announced that the zilla parishad would be told to set up such swimming pools in every sub-division of the district.