This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Abhishek Jha. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Forced To Often Drink Sewage Water While Govt. Doesn’t Act: Story Of A Delhi Slum

More from Abhishek Jha

WaterAidEditor’s Note: This post is a part of #InDeepShit, by WaterAid India and Youth Ki Awaaz to understand the reality behind the inhumane practise of manual scavenging in India. You can speak up against this form of discrimination and share your views by publishing a story here.

Fifty-one-year-old Shankuntala Sharma suffered from acidity, vomited often, and could hardly eat until six months ago. Her agony ended when her family started getting her packaged water for drinking. “Otherwise, I used to live on medicines,” she says. Not everyone in her family of 10 is as lucky though. “Ours is a large family. We cannot buy packaged water for everybody. So, for Rs. 20, they get water only for me,” she adds.

For the people who live in the colonies around the Bhalswa, Delhi’s largest landfill site – buying packaged drinking water, or worse, making do with filthy, non-potable water to meet their everyday needs – is a harsh reality. The area has three sources of water- hand pumps, water supplied by the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) through public taps and water tankers. But the water is so bad that those who can afford it choose to buy packaged water. “What can one do? If you want to keep your children alive, you have to do it,” says Ranju Devi, who runs a fast-food shop in the area.

Hand-pumps are one of the three sources of water in Bhalswa, but water quality is so bad. many residents choose to buy packaged drinking water to survive.

Devi says that sometimes they have no option but to buy packaged water even for cooking. The water tanker arrives only once a week and not everybody is able to store a week’s supply each time. The groundwater, which people get either through hand pumps or public taps, is usually saline and is mostly used it for washing purposes.

A survey conducted in 2012 by Bhalswa Lok Shakti Manch (BLSM), an organisation of women from the Bhalswa Resettlement Colony, and Hazards Centre had shown that handpump water had a total dissolved solids count ranging between 2,300 and 5,800 parts per million (ppm), much higher than the desirable 500 ppm. While solids dissolved in water may not necessarily create a health hazard, excess solids prevent people from using the water. The landfill nearby seems to be responsible for the contamination of the groundwater. A 2009 study, in fact, simulated the flow of ‘chloride’ from the landfill and found that the observed concentration in the Bhalswa’s groundwater is the same as that found by the simulation.

In this particular colony at least, there is no outlet for sewage either – keeping it stagnated underground and thus contaminating groundwater. But so dire is the situation that when people run out of water, they are forced to use this standing, contaminated sewage water.

For the ragpickers living near the landfill, the situation is even worse. They leave at around 8 am for work, usually missing the water tanker that arrives much later in the day. When they do manage to be there, those who live in colonies don’t let them take water.

“Someone says we have paid for the tanker, someone else will say, ‘How can you get water when we haven’t?’,” says Raabya Biwi, a ragpicker living near the landfill.

A 2012 survey had shown that handpump water had more than the desirable amount of total dissolved solids count, but for many Bhalswa residents, there is no option but to use this contaminated water.

Sharma says the situation was even worse when she arrived at Bhalswa some 17 years ago. “There were altercations between women – this person’s hair in that person’s hand, people hitting each other with buckets,” she recalls.

And even though the situation has improved a bit, the change took a whole decade to come. According to the BLSM head Pushpa, it could take another decade to fix the problem permanently.

The only move made by the government for arriving at a permanent solution so far is the transfer of 787.80 sq. m. of land from the DUSIB (Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board) to the DJB for the construction of an underground reservoir. Here too, the DJB in October told the Public Grievances Commission, which addresses grievances related to government departments, “Since DJB is facing shortage of water, as such water cannot be supplied to the colony in the present scenario. Therefore, presently only boundary wall is being constructed and UGR (Underground Reservoir) will be constructed only after availability of sufficient water.”

“This is a fight that is still going on,” Pushpa says. However, the problem is not likely to get solved unless each household gets its own water connection, she adds.

Already spending money on buying packaged drinking water and medicines, residents here are more than ready to pay money for a connection, despite the added struggle this will bring. “We are even ready to pay for installation of metres in our houses. At least our illnesses will end then,” Sharma says. At the pace at which the government is working, this seems like a far-fetched dream.

The residents in Bhalswa need our help. Tweet your support and solidarity, and bring their plight to the Delhi CM’s attention:

Residents of Bhalswa are forced to drink sewage water. @ArvindKejriwal, please act! #InDeepShit

You must be to comment.

More from Abhishek Jha

Similar Posts

By pratyush prashant

By Srishti Sharma

By Prashant Kumar Dubey

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below