With the water receding in many parts of Kerala, residents now face a drinking water crisis due to contamination of wells and damage to pumping stations in the flood-hit areas. Drinking water scarcity has been reported in Aluva, Kalady, Paravoor, Eloor and Perumbavoor in Ernakulam district. Most wards in these areas are both coastal and low lying and were almost entirely submerged during the floods. This resulted in slushy water entering the wells here, which were a source of drinking water for the households.
With wells polluted and pumps damaged, water is being distributed to relief camps and to some areas in tankers. Municipal authorities in villages have also undertaken water purification efforts on a war footing.“We have 17 wards here and all of them are getting water though tankers for now. Meanwhile, we have rented 12 motors and are pumping out dirty water from the wells and chlorinating them using bleach. But since the earth is damp everywhere, moisture is draining into these wells again, so it not drying soon,” said advocate Tulasi, the president of Kalady panchayat in Ernakulam.
According to Tulasi, over 6,000 houses, roughly 80% of the total houses in the 17 wards of Kalady, were fully or partially submerged in the floods.
Apart from the difficulty in drying the wells, dead reptiles, insects, e-waste and garbage floating in the water are also hindering the cleaning process. Further, the pump sets and motors in most of these wells have also been ruined due to flooding, making it a costly affair to get the wells fixed.
“There is no electricity in many wards here as the water is still drying out; the restoration process is ongoing. This means residents have to pump out water manually,” a local source told TNM.
Ernakulam district collector K Muhammad Y Safirulla said that barring a few pumps that are to be fixed, the issue was mostly resolved in Kochi city and operations are yet to tae places in the rural areas.
"The rural areas are hard hit as most households depend on well water and the well contamination is high. Water has to be completely pumped out and wells cleaned before they can be used again," the collector told TNM.
Water purification is being undertaken on a mass scale by municipal authorities, and in the meantime, water is being supplied to relief camps through tankers. For now, tankers are not distributing water to individual households. Residents who have moved back home can collect water by assembling in a common area.
“People have not yet started living in their houses yet. It’ll take them a week to clean their house and until then they are staying in camps. When they are back home, water tankers will have to be directed even to individual households,” the source added.
In Alappuzha, all 8 feeding stations responsible for pumping water to towns have been fixed, said collector Suhas. S
"Water is being supplied to Chengannur in tankers now. But mostly people there subsist on wells and other natural water sources which have been contaminated. These wells have to be chlorinated and sanitised. I have issued a directive to not let people move back to their houses without being trained to clean the wells and premises. Or we have been despatching volunteers to help with the sanitsing process. Some people are now going to relief camps to drink water," the Alappuzha collector told TNM.
In Aluva, areas close to the Periyar river, such as Desom, Aluva Manappuram, Paravur Kavala and other places, have been hit badly, affecting about 50,000 houses built around the river.
This article has been produced in partnership with Oxfam India. In the last 10 years, Oxfam India has delivered over 36 impactful humanitarian responses in India. Oxfam India is providing critical relief to the affected families and communities in Kerala: clean drinking water, sanitation, and shelter kits. Click here to help #RebuildKerala.