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Myriad Forms of Informal Water

In the first hour of our field work in Malkaram, one thing became very evident. This village is much poorer than our other study villages- Mallampet, Kokapet and Adibatla. There was no development in or around the area. This was also probably the reason why there was no informal water selling activity in this village. During the summer season, people have to buy water from private tankers. But during the rest of the year, people have to make additional arrangements to procure water, which are discussed in this blog piece.
Most of these arrangements fall in the grey area between formal and informal, and categorizing them under either, does not do justice to its nature.

The village is divided into three residential colonies. Farah Nagar is one colony that has no public taps or bore wells. The primary source of water for these residents is a bore well that is owned by the Mosque. This bore well has been connected to several stand posts, the cost for which were incurred by the residents. People also attach rubber pipes to these taps and connect it to their homes. The mosque does not explicitly charge for the water that they provide, but every household pays some monthly amount, which is used, for the expenses of the mosque, including the electricity charges for the working of the bore well. This amount varies from household to household. But if a household refuses to pay money, they are not allowed to tap this water. So this essentially makes it a paid, informal source.


At one point, people used to consume this groundwater. But soon after the coming up of a dump yard near the village, they noticed contamination of groundwater. Sometimes the leachate from the dump yard seeps into the water table making the water brownish-black and smelly. So now, people have started buying water from an RO plant that is just outside the village. Most of the villagers buy water from there at the rate of Rs.10 for 20 liters. This RO is an unregistered one, which makes it another informal source for the villagers.

The next colony is Bada Malkaram. This is the only part of the village that has public water stand posts connected to the Panchayat’s bore well. Some households also have individual water connections, which they paid for. But apart from these households, there are also many that are farther away from these sources and are newer settlements. The primary source for these households is an illegal connection taken from the HMWSSB pipeline that goes to BITS College located very close to the village. The villagers tapped this water and built a stand post, from where a lot of them procure their water for drinking and domestic uses. When the officials from BITS found out about this, they tried to stop this tapping of water. The villagers in response pleaded the officials to allow them to use it, as it was their only source of water. This stand post is located outside a temple, and is said to be used for ‘temple purposes’, so as to avoid any further conflict. Women stand in queues from morning to noon, to fill their buckets and pots, making several rounds walking from the stand post to their houses, which are sometimes almost a kilometer away. Many a times, men stand in queues when their wives/mothers are unwell, because of which they end up missing work and losing their wage.


The above instances show the various informal arrangements that the residents have adapted to as a means to procure water to sustain their livelihoods. Contrary to what development entails, these informal sources have become more evident and necessary with the development outside the village. These informal sources are also preferred over the formal sources. For instance, since the formal water points are not geographically centralized, it makes it inconvenient for people to travel long distances just to collect water. Even if these water points are close to some households, they prefer not to drink that water as it is polluted, and travel further away to buy RO water.

Thus, the informal sources mentioned above, along with the private water tankers have become primary sources of water for the sustenance of this village.

By Anshika JohnSumit VijPoulomi BanerjeeSai Kiran


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