India Uncut

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Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The flip side of piped water

Wouldn’t you think that the introduction of piped water in a village would be seminal for the women who lived there? Well so did I, until I came across a wonderful article in the Indian Express by Ravinder Kaur titled “In a buffalo economy”, which points out the flip side of this progress. She writes:

Since the arrival of the individual hand-pump or piped water, women have been divested of the social networking and entertainment that carried on before. Although there is ease in doing chores at home, nothing has replaced the village well as a place to get together. Men have the village chaupal; women have no such legitimate social space.

… Women’s work conditions are tied to their “working environment” – homes, streets, fields. The pathetic state of sanitation and lack of sewerage systems and garbage disposal in the villages is turning them into large slums. The unsanitary surroundings especially affect the health of women and children. Women do most water-related work and sick children mean more work for them. The introduction of individual hand-pumps and piped water is a “sign” of development. Yet, without being linked to a sewerage system, it turns into a nightmare. In every village, there are overflowing or clogged drains and piles of garbage at regular intervals.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that hand-pumps and piped water are a bad thing – it merely underscores that technological development must take place in the context of the environment and the supporting infrastructure. In this case, the introduction of piped water without adequate sewerage or sanitation have increased the likelihood of health-related problems. What is progressive in isolation has had regressive effects when viewed in context. Such are the difficult contradictions that a developing nation has to deal with.
amit varma, 5:31 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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