As Chenab region particularly Bhadarwah Valley in hilly Doda district faces the harshest winters in several years, residents of Sunote Village in Thubba Panchayat are beset with new problems. Frozen taps and over ground gravity lines have plunged the area into a severe water crisis leaving villagers to travel miles in search of potable water in sub-zero temperature.
Sunote village which is located on a hilly slope in dense cedar forest 25 km from Bhadarwah town, even the water supply lines have frozen as the region has been witnessing sub-zero temperatures with mercury dipping to a record low in 28-year in Bhadarwah Valley.
As the night temperature hovered below the sub-zero levels continuously for more than two months, it had a cascading effect on the water supply lines in far-off areas of the Valley like Sunote village.
Sunote village, which consists of nearly two dozen houses, including 6 tribal Gujjar families, women folk of these families (mostly farmers and cattle rarer) have no other option but to trekk the treacherous terrain of nearly 2 km in groups to collect snow and later boil it to water for day today use and their cattle from the forest areas where snow remains accumulated for longer period.
This is the only choice they have, as political representatives and administration are allegedly mute spectators despite several centrally sponsored flagship schemes especially for downtrodden sections and those living in far-off villages.
"We are being forced to survive under severe water crisis since last three months now, we have been running out of patience due to paucity of water for our daily needs, we keep on moving from dawn to dusk to fetch water in sub zero temperature, treacherous condition and under fear of wild animals. Under these conditions, we can't survive for long," said Asha Devi (58) tribal lady of the village.
"My both knees are injured and I can hardly move but still at this age, I have no other option but to trekk 2 Km everyday with my husband to fetch the water. I know, I may die falling from a cliff or getting buried in snow but still I keep on going," said Begum Bibi (70), an elderly tribal Gujjar lady of Sunote, demanding piped water from any source.
Young generation of this village seems to be the worst sufferers as some of the students complain that it immensely affects their study schedule. "We have to go far off places to fetch the water. It affects our study schedule too," said Ali, a student.
Another student, Bashir Naaz said "I am being regularly taunted and teased by fellow students at school for my untidy uniform and for not washing my hair and face daily. They never believed that we don't have water in our village."
Under given circumstances talking of the Prime Minister's 'Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan' or rural sanitation is a cruel joke as we are not getting water to drink, how can we even think of using washrooms," said DivyaCharak , a student of class 12th, Sjabir Ali.
Executive Engineer PHE division Doda, Satish Sharma said that he is equally concerned about the problems being faced by these poor people in absence of potable water.
"I will send my team headed by AEE there tomorrow morning and will also visit there personally as the issue raised by the villagers is of very serious nature," said Satish Sharma.
"I assure you that the potable water supply to Sunote village will be restored at the earliest and we will also try to look for other natural resources to tap them for a permanent solution," the Officer assured.