Participants of the interaction programme

A village level interaction programme on climate change impact on water resources was organized at the TTA hall at Ukhrul on 24th May, 2018 by the State Climate Change Cell, Directorate of Environment, Government of Manipur in collaboration with Institute of Mountain Initiatives (IMI), Manipur Chapter. The programme was attended by many participants coming from different villages of Ukhrul district who shared their story about the increasing difficulties on the face of water scarcity. It is well known that when it comes to the scarcity of water, women always stand at the forefront of facing its consequences. The interaction focuses on the increasing level of water scarcity and how the women of villages in Ukhrul district are trying to cope with it.

Most of the participants share a common problem. They vent out their woes and suffering about the difficulty to secure a bucket of water. Time consumed and distance covered to collect water took a toll on their life. The problem worsens during the lean season of the year. Washing clothes was limited to once a week by going farther down the slope to the river. There are also little or no initiatives to improve the availability of water in these villages. The women folk bear the sole responsibility to collect water apart from cooking food, washing clothes and taking care of their children.

In the lean months of the year (mainly from January to May), atleast one woman has to spend the entire day for fetching water. With the rise in population along with the widespread deforestation taking place in the catchment areas, more and more water sources are drying out. The water at source is becoming very less and people have to explore the far off rivers for water as the springsheds are unable to meet the demands of the residents. In some of the motorable villages and main Ukhrul town, residents shell out Rs 300 for 500 litres of water from the water suppliers from other areas. Around 15 years back, the issue of water scarcity was not there according to the participants. In many of the villages the collection of water have to be done by using bowls as the water level is that low. Women and children have to wake up in the death of the night to go to the water holes to wait and collect water for their basic requirements. In this regular affair, many a times children have to skip school to fetch water. Women folks generally wash the whole weeks’ clothes of the family by going to the most nearest river bank which varies from 2 to 5 kilometres and return after drying the clothes. In villages such as Tunglei, the traditional ponds are maintained and time to time cleaning of the pond is done. However, the water dries up fast and the water quality is also very bad. Steps like tree plantation, digging of ponds through MGNREGA and cleaning of the ponds is practiced but still the water is not sufficient to meet the demands of the populace.

In Ukhrul town and nearby Hundung village, pipe water supply is accessible. However the supply water comes for a short period of half an hour only three times a week. One water connection is available in Hundung for every 1000 households and hence the supply water is way too less to cater the needs of the residents. With this rate of water scarcity, the functioning of the newly inaugurated District Hospital in Hundung is also becoming questionable.

Increasing population is one factor that caused the hardship in addition to the rampant felling of trees from the catchment areas. Realisation of the problem is yet to sink in and many villagers are still cutting down trees as it is the only way to earn a living. The opportunity of alternative livelihood in these villages is nil and being mostly farmers, the erratic rainfall has also affected their life in all possible ways. Jhum cultivation which has been a part of their lives has become a bane of their survival as it is one of the main cause of destruction and degradation of forests. Loss of trees in the catchment areas accelerates the erosion process of the hill slope and leads to runoff decreasing the infiltration of rain water. It resulted in the drying up of springs and streams which is the main source of water for the people of Ukhrul.

With the continuing trend of population growth, increased per capita water requirement and the looming threat of climate change, the water woes is sure to continue. A number of views were shared by the participants to improve the water scarcity problem in Ukhrul district and that includes harvesting of rain  water through scientific approach, planting more trees in the upper catchment areas, equal participation from both the genders in the various activities to conserve water, etc. As the problem of water scarcity is a localised issue determined by various factors such as the regional climatic, topographical and demographic factors, a single solution will not be applicable to solve the issue.