July 09, 2020
New Delhi: During periods of extensive heat waves, Rajasthan has always been prone to water scarcity where ponds and lakes dry up. The COVID-19 pandemic is creating even more hardships for farmers living in these areas impacting harvesting and sales with only 10 per cent of the farmers selling their produce because of travel restrictions and labour shortage. 
In Western India, Rajasthan receives the least rainfall as compared to other states because 61% of the area comprises dry terrain.  In Barmer district, in the villages of Badnawa Charan and Bachbhar many people are drinking contaminated water due to damaged pipelines or no pumps, which is a common concern awaiting redressal.
Barmer district houses numerous nomad groups, which include the Kalbelias, Gudaliyas, Lohars and Bagris, who don’t have proper access to resources. They are employed in unorganised sectors like animal husbandry and are facing severe problems because of an impact on their income due to the lockdown. 
Most of the residents are having to order water tankers for which they collectively contribute. In Lumbaniyo Ki Dhani, the cost of a water tanker is Rs 2,000, which is unaffordable for villagers. 
The state government had issued a statement for strategizing a plan to ensure sufficient quantity of drinking water, which also includes closure of canals impacting districts of Jodhpur, Barmer and Nagaur. The district administration and the tehsils were accountable for whatever measures were taken in these areas. The completed work included installing water pumps and pipelines worth Rs. 50 lakh. 
Hindustan Zinc and Cairn Oil and Gas have contributed Rs.10 Crore towards CM’s Relief Fund to ensure welfare for villages that are deeply impacted by the water shortage and the COVID pandemic. These initiatives are aimed at reaching out to the communities by spreading awareness about these issues and empowering them to develop skills. 
There is need for more transparency, efficiency and increased engagement between the public and private sectors while dealing with the pandemic in a district which is water scarce and also home to nomadic groups, who require all the support.
(Vineet Malik is a Research Associate with OneWorld Foundation India)
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