The Overlooked Role of Water Bodies in Income of women in Rural Areas

By Dr. Sanjukta Panda and Dr. Ranjit K. Sahu

 How often have you wondered about the water lily that looks as gorgeous as a decoration in your home or looks quintessential for worship during a visit to a place of worship?  Like most products that originate in nature but need nurture and care, water lilies need a certain amount of input in terms of management of water bodies that harbor them.  Tanks ponds and many kinds of water bodies dot both the suburban and rural landscape of India. With increased pressure for infrastructure development and residential and non-residential constructions, many of these water bodies are encroached upon. The kings of yesteryears often constructed ponds and tanks for the public. However, though we inherited a great legacy, our inability has caused the ruin of several of the public resources. Media has often highlighted this issue. However, different kind of problem exists in the hinterlands where often the water bodies suffer from negligence and inaction of both the locals and the governing bodies. While the environmental aspect of such nonchalance is not easily comprehensible and builds up over time, there are economic issues that affect certain classes of populations who depend on such water bodies for their income.

 The present report is an insight into how mismanagement of small water bodies causes or may cause hardship to population dependent upon it in the rural areas. The most important problems plaguing water bodies is the use as a sink for locally generated waste, the growth of unnecessary and noxious weeds and the absence of regular desalting. The pitiable condition of the huge tank called Jagannath Sagar in the town of Jeypore, Koraput is one such instance. Similarly water bodies are being lost in many parts of the state of Odisha as elsewhere around the country due to burgeoning real estate and increased demand for land for construction activities.

 Development of backward regions often hinges on the successful empowerment of women. While education plays an important role, assuring a source of sustenance for rural women becomes the primary focus. Many women depend on the small water bodies for their income. They gather different products from the water bodies and either sell them directly in the local markets or at times supply to the small vendors. During winters particularly the water bodies are an important source of income in terms of supplementary income.  The water lilies are gathered and sold by women and men from rural areas in the cities. Fruits like water chestnut that are found in the winter months also are a source of income other than the routine harvests from the ponds like small fish and fresh water shrimps that are gathered year round.

 The water lilies occur in marshy, wetlands as well and often young children and girls help to pluck these. Often these are picked with very long stems to increase their shelf life. (Photo 1, 2)

Photo 1 & 2

 A walk through the local market in the town of Nowrangpur demonstrates how important a role these water bodies play in generating income for rural communities. Women from the village collect and sell water lilies from the village ponds. Their daily income is generated from selling routine things but the availability of water lilies during the season supplements it. When during this season they try to sell the flowers. Both regular flower sellers as well those selling other commodities find these as a useful supplementary source of income. For flower sellers, the procurement is easier as these are from local sources while most other flowers like marigold are usually bought from the nearest towns in Andhra Pradesh and resold involving a middleman at times (Photo 3).

Photo 3

 In an era of rapidly decreasing employment opportunities due to the burgeoning population, every possible source of income for the rural poor has to be preserved. In this matter it is time that the local population is sensitized to the importance of water bodies. The inefficiency of government and non-government organizations cannot be used as an excuse for negligence of water bodies and citizen groups and civil society organizations need to take proactive steps towards maintenance and restoration of these structures through voluntary participation of local persons and regular scheduling of maintenance activities. Keeping a watch on the water quality and possibly the BOD levels can be done by looking at any dead fish for signs maybe an easy way to maintain healthy aquatic ecosystems within these water bodies. Apart from this prevention of release of sewage into the water bodies which is rampant across the country is required. Removal of noxious weeds like water Hyacinth may be another important measure to prevent evaporation as well as maintain the health of the water body. It is important to remember that these resources belong to us and it is not only our privilege to enjoy the benefits from these but also our responsibility to look after their maintenance and sustainable use.

Author Bio:

Dr. Sanjukta Panda,  is Head of Department of Education at Nabarangpur Women’s Degree College, she has active interest in social issues though she predominantly works in teaching and education.

Dr. Ranjit K. Sahu is a Research professional and freelance writer with over a decade of experience in biomedical research , currently located in Virginia, USA. His interests include education, environment, sustainability and health care in the underprivileged regions of the world.

One Comment

  1. Nicely presented the way of living

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