What if there is no water? ( Zainab)

From: zainab@mail.xtdnet.nl
Subject: [Reader-list] What if there is no water?
Date: Sat 7 Apr 2007 11:37:17 GMT+02:00
To: reader-list@sarai.net, urbanstudygroup@sarai.net

I was reading Lisa Peattie’s work on Planning this morning. She says:

… every telling represents a way of seeing. We see from where we stand; and why would we look unless we care about how the story comes out?

Telling represents a way of seeing;
We see from where we stand …

I was standing in my window, looking through the grills, squinting as much as my eye could reach. There was a commotion going on. The albino woman from the opposite houses was on the street, shouting loudly, as if making a very clear point, to a main in a safari suit. He could have been a politician or a bureaucrat. The woman was complaining about the lack of water in the street. There were other women standing around her, with their orange and fluorescent yellow and green bhindis. The bhindis were empty.
I got scared looking at this, frightened. The sump which stores water and the motor which pumps the water up are located in the storeroom downstairs. I decided that I will lock the storeroom when I leave.

Telling represents a way of seeing;
We see from where we stand …

I was sitting outside Dilli Haat, the crafts bazaar in Delhi. The afternoon was hot and I was tired.
The circular seating space outside the Haat is decorated with patches of grass and some trees. There are sprinklers rooted in the ground which then water the grass.
It was getting hotter. A boy came from somewhere. He was about 14 or 15. He squatted a bit, then put his mouth close to a sprinkler and turned it on. In about a minute, he quenched his thirst and switched off the sprinkler. Satisfied, he walked along.
I was quite amazed to see this. Walking around in Bangalore and exploring people’s access to water, I discovered that the Municipal Corporation of Bangalore (BMP) which has been responsible for providing water to the poor decided that it will no longer pay the Water Board (BWSSB) for supplying water to the public fountains and standpipes. This is now called Non-Revenue Water (NRW). So BWSSB now urges the poor in the slums to take individual water connections and pay according to the meter. Standpipes are being taken off from the slums because we live in an age where ‘UTILITIES MUST ENSURE FULL COST RECOVERY FOR SERVICES’.
The stories which my friends and I have collected show that the very category ‘the poor’ is problematic because it does not account for the heterogeneity of incomes and contexts that make up the poor. Some among the poor earn as little as Rs. 1,500 per month and pay a water bill of Rs. 73 (in addition to buying potable water) and this accounts for 4.87% of their monthly incomes. In contrast, I pay about .67% of my present monthly income (and even lesser if I earn more).

Telling represents a way of seeing;
We see from where we stand …

‘Neeru beka’, Eeshwari said when she came home that day to work. Eeshwari works in my house as a maid. She looked troubled that day, troubled because there was no water. We told her to take water from our house if she needed. Meanwhile, we began worrying at the prospect of water shortage and no water in the sump downstairs.
Eeshwari came home as usual next day. ‘Neeru beka’, she said again. We asked her to take water from our house. She happily came over, with her sister-in-law and five empty bhindhis. They filled it to the brim and went off.
Meanwhile, we worried at the thought of water shortage. He said to me, “WHAT IF THERE IS NO WATER?” I told him, “I have never thought of a situation when there is no water. I have always had access to water.”


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