Saturday, November 1, 2014

Water Worries

One of my biggest worries when moving to India was the water. An article in the newspaper shortly after we arrived confirmed that worry. It stated that "Mumbai flushes up to 80% of untreated sewerage directly into the sea" causing fish to stop breeding within 4 km and forcing fishermen "to go up to 150 kms to catch fish." Samples of sea water have excessively high fecal bacteria. Drinking water consistently contains unsafe levels of e coli and many other undesirables. Every time we come across any body of water, we see people going to the bathroom in it among piles of garbage and debris. It's enough to make you clutch your bottled water and say a prayer of gratitude!

Water delivery is a thriving business. We use bottled water for everything - cooking, washing perishables, drinking, brushing teeth - and within 15 minutes of calling, a couple of guys show up at our door with three 20 liter containers for about $4.50. They are a welcome sight! Remembering not to open our mouths in the shower is harder than you'd think and you can always tell when you've forgotten. No one enjoys the consequence of having 'a funny tummy.'

Most people don't have the luxury of affording bottled water - in fact, many don't have any kind of running water. In an effort to discourage new slums from being formed, a law was passed a decade and half ago that banned running water from being installed in those communities. Ones like this one that have main water lines running right through them simply tap illegally into the line.

Others run hoses from water lines and residents collect water and fill their personal water barrels. 

Nearly all residents in Mumbai have times when water is available - usually only twice a day for an hour at a time. Someone has to be at the house then to fill up all the containers. Church members talk about how their day is scheduled around water times. In larger apartment buildings like ours, the building has a massive water storage container in the basement which they fill up at the appointed times so residents have water whenever they turn on their taps. Some buildings have their water storage on the top like this one.

I'm always surprised at how resilient and resourceful the people are here. The things that I think of as a challenge (not being able to use the tap water), they see as a blessing (just having tap water). India is certainly putting my perceptions into a new light.

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