Today is our last day of visits in India. Today is the day of the Bhopal City Slums.
As we drive through a traffic on a busy Friday morning, past shops and banks and people's homes we take a sharp left and we are suddenly in the a large open space covered in litter. We drive about 100m and then we are at the entrance of the slum. We get put into groups and then lead to a family's house. The slum has been here for 40 years but is unauthorised so no one has been able to build a proper home, just corrigated iron shacks. We meet Raj Kumari and her friends who all live in the same section of the slum. They tell us there are pipes that bring water once a day for an hour.1 pipe for each row of the slum that is between 32 and 40 households. The pipes don't have taps, they are open so when the water does get switched on, if no one is there to collect it the water just runs away. I can also see that the water pipe runs through the open drain which is full of rubbish and waste and dirty water. The pipes are broken in some places and the dirty water can get into the clean water supply which the people in the slum have to drink. I ask them where they go to the toilet. they all look over my shoulder and point to a road about 200m away. 'There' they say 'on the side of the road'. They tell us in the day they are scared of snakes and insects, that they are embarrassed as people can see them. At night the women and children are scared of being attacked by men.
Most of the children in the slum go to Government schools and most of the adults work. The men are labourers and the women work as cleaners for the rich people in the houses near by. I ask the women if they are allowed to have a drink of water or use the toilet whilst they work in the houses. They say no. they aren't allowed at all.
Life in the slum seems to be a battle. In the summer the water dries up and they are meant to get water delivered by tanker, it very rarely comes. In this case they have to walk 2k across the city to the nearest water tap. In the rainy season the open sewers fill up and flood people's houses. Also when it rains the children slip and fall into the drains and the road where people go to the toilet also floods and the water carries all the human waste back to the slum where it gets into people's houses and covers the clean water pipes. The people in the slum know how unsafe it is to drink the water they are given and they know it is unhygienic to openly defecate. But they have no choice. This is no way to live!
As we walk around the slum we are watching the women collect water, the drains the pipe runs through smells and you can see how dirty it is even from a distance. We see one woman with 4 empty buckets and one half full. She tells us the water has been turned off and she hasn't had time to collect enough water for her family that day. She either has to wait until tomorrow or walk 2k to the nearest water point.
As we walked out of the slum we noticed a JCB and a truck digging out the septic waste from one of the open drains which run round the slum like a moat. The people in the slum are all looking on amazed. The 'corporation' have never been here before, they have never tried to clean up before, they have never listened to the people in the slum. The woman who is running to be the local leader has also arrived. It is amazing to think that just our presence has encouraged the people local authority to turn up and do something. It seems to be just a show though and as we leave we are all pretty sure that the JCBs and the trucks will pack up and leave as well pretty soon....
In the afternoon we go to a slum called Agunara. the people in this slum have been helped by WaterAid and their partners. We are welcomed to this village with songs and smiles. We go to Shanti Gupda's house a concrete building with a kitchen, bathroom, toilet, living room and 2 bedrooms. We also meet her two beautiful daughters Moni, 20 and Rinki 17. They tell us they are studying at collage and Rinki tells us she wants to be a nurse. The intervention in their slum started in 2009. Before they had no real water supply and they all openly defecated. This made them feel scared and embarrassed but they had no other choice. Now, the slum has numerous water supply pipes and they all say they have plenty of water. All of the houses also have toilets so they never have to worry about privacy or safety. They tell us their health is now much better and they spend all their free time studying. Previously it had taken 3 - 4 hours a day to collect water. Now they don't have to do this they are happy. This slum has been authorised for 30 years, this has given the people some security so they have built solid homes and have an electricity supply. This place is so different to the slum we saw this morning. this place is more like an urban village than a slum, it is so clean and there is no smell.
Visiting this slum has given me hope that WaterAid will also be able to help the slum we visited this morning. I would love to go back in 5 years time and see the difference, the pople will be happy, healthy and clean. They will be safer and they will have their dignity back.
So that was our last day.
Off home to the UK now.... bye India!! What a week! I will never forget and I will work hard to raise awareness for WaterAid so they can help more people, and save more people's lives.