The acute water shortage and the absence of any conservation practices in the region have led to several dairy and farm animals dying in the past months.
This is the second of a two-part field report on the acute water shortage in several villages of Bundelkhand region. Read the first part here.
Bundelkhand: One of the most concerning consequences of the recent water shortage in the middle of the heat wave in Bundelkhand has been that a large number of thirsty animals have perished. In seven out of eight villages that I visited between May 21-23, people said that thirst-related deaths of animals including cows, bullocks and to a lesser extent, buffaloes have taken place during the last three months.
At a group discussion in Mastapur village in Jatara block of Tikamgarh district, it was learnt that well over 300 animals had died during the last three months. Some villagers like Akhilesh Jain, a senior member of a pani panchayat, insisted on a higher figure. To confirm, I began asking various individuals present if they had lost any farm or dairy animal recently, and most of them mentioned the loss of one to three animals (mostly cows).
Earlier, when I visited Vangai village of this block, people told me that they had lost around 100 animals. Nearly ten people nodded their agreement as several weak cattle searched for some water in vain in the huge but completely dried up village tank.
In Kauriya village of the block, people said that the village had lost about 50 animals in the recent weeks, largely due to thirst related factors and acute water shortage. The ponds and other water sources have all dried up, replaced instead by muddy areas.
In several villages of Uttar Pradesh too, villagers confirmed thirst-related animal deaths. In Geura village of Talbehat block (Lalitpur district), people explained that it was difficult to arrange water for animals when drinking water for human beings was so hard to come by.
While the mortality of animals during the last three months has increased in both Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh parts of Bundelkhand, the increase has been higher in Madhya Pradesh. However, adequate and timely relief is nowhere in sight. In fact, on the road from Jhansi to Tikamgarh, I saw some disturbing sights of cows perishing just near the roadside.
No less neglected is the threat of thirst-related deaths of several wild animals and birds, including nilgais. Water needs of not just farm and dairy animals but also the wild animals and birds should be taken care of.
Water conservation: a possible solution
Water conservation efforts are needed on a much larger scale and in a better-planned way. Sadly, here too, the governments of both states appear to be lagging behind.
Before the monsoon begins is when the planning for water conservation should be done. But despite all the rhetoric about this, very little sincere and solid work is visible at the ground level, particularly in the villages that I visited where water scarcity is high.
Bharat Dogra is a freelance journalist who has been involved with several social movements and initiatives.