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Water Means Life

Our only concern is
water. If we get water,
we will get a better life.

- Gita Munda, Bhetkhali, Bangladesh

Munda woman standing by dirty pond

Water means life

The Munda people in Bhetkhali village survive on farming, fishing and labouring. Today, they are facing the worst weather crisis of their lives.  

For them, water is both a gift and a curse.  When it’s clean and safe, water means food, health and life. But in recent years heavy rain and flash flooding have become more frequent, destroying crops, roads and homes. The Munda people are struggling to survive.

This is Debendranath Munda, known as Deben.

Deben is a storyteller in his seventies. Over the years he's seen ponds dry up, farmland spoiled, roads disappear.

Before cyclone Aila, he worked in the forest. He used to regularly encounter tigers, but now his biggest fear is the climate and water crisis.

The biggest issue that people in my community face is the lack of water. 

His one hope is that his children won't struggle like he did. But he's worried that, without solving the water and sanitation problems, things are only going to get worse.

This is Shyamoli Munda

Shyamoli is a doula and has delivered 45 babies.

She has to walk 6km a day to collect water. Her back, already in pain from years of rice cultivation and fish farming, is made worse with each journey.

If I didn’t have to walk these long distances to get water, I’d have more time to take care of my family.

In Bangladesh, 3.8 million people don't have access to clean water...

And climate change is making things worse.

Man's hands holding a few green crops over cracked soil
Man's hands palms open over dirty water
Woman's hands palms open with child's hands palm open on top over dirty water
Woman holding red flowers over dirty water

Water means uncertainty

Bangladesh has suffered multiple cyclones, floods and periods of extreme heat in recent years.

In the south, where the Munda people live, clean water can disappear overnight.

People have no choice but to use dirty ponds. Disease is common. 

One water source is flammable, if you light something nearby then it catches on fire, so it’s not safe.
- Debendranath Munda

Water means sickness

Many women say they’ve lost hair and have skin rashes from washing in the ponds.

Many people in my community get itchy skin and rashes...I also have a lot of hair loss.
- Joyoshree Munda

Toilets are dire too. Almost half the population of Bangladesh don't have a decent toilet and those in Bhetkhali are often flooded or washed away in heavy downpours. People then get sick from all the sewage.

Water means burden

Many women have to walk three to four hours for drinking water. This is time that would be better spent with family or earning.

For the women who carry this burden, back and hip injuries are common.

The long walk is why I have hurt my back and can no longer walk to collect the water.
- Rita Munda

The Munda people do their best to look after their families and carve out a better future for their community.

But climate change is robbing them of the essentials they need to stay alive.

Donate to help the community install a rainwater harvesting plant that provides clean drinking water that can withstand floods and storms.

portraits of Bhetkhali
portraits of Bhetkhali

The Munda people do their best to look after their families and carve out a better future for their community.

But climate change is robbing them of the essentials they need to stay alive.

Donate to help the community install a rainwater harvesting plant that provides clean drinking water that can withstand floods and storms.

portraits of Bhetkhali
portraits of Bhetkhali

Rita Munda

The climate has changed drastically.
We do not have any clean water sources anymore. The pond water is contaminated by the rice growing in the fields nearby. The rice grains and the chemicals that are used to grow the rice makes our skin itchy.

I can’t walk the long distance to collect water any more by myself as I have back problems. This started ever since I started carrying the water jugs.

Shyamoli Munda

We don’t have tap water. I have to walk 3km twice every day to get water, once in the morning and once in the evening, after I get back from the field. In the morning I have to go very early because there’s always a huge queue.

When I go to collect water, I take a kolosh [jug], which holds 10 litres of water. I normally go with two or three other people. The roads are not very safe and I’m afraid I’m going to trip and fall, especially when it’s dark.
If I didn’t have to walk these long distances to get water, I’d have more time to take care of my family. I also wouldn't have as many health problems.

Somoresh

We don’t have enough water to wash ourselves and our clothes or feed our animals. Even our animals get sick from the water.

It’s very difficult for older people, it happens over and over again, and they get weak and sick. Every time a cyclone comes, we can’t get water, and people get sick.
If we have fresh drinking water, we will be healthy and live well.
Rita Munda standing by a dirty pool looking concerned
Shyamoli Munda sitting with her grandson outside her home
Man in vintage football shirt surrounded by palms
Woman standing by dirty pool looking concerned
Grandmother sitting with grandson outside home
Woman standing by dirty pool looking concerned
Grandmother sitting with grandson outside home

Rita Munda

The climate has changed drastically.
We do not have any clean water sources anymore. The pond water is contaminated by the rice growing in the fields nearby. The rice grains and the chemicals that are used to grow the rice makes our skin itchy.

I can’t walk the long distance to collect water any more by myself as I have back problems.

Shyamoli Munda

We don’t have tap water. I have to walk 3km twice every day to get water, once in the morning and once in the evening, after I get back from the field. In the morning I have to go very early because there’s always a huge queue.

When I go to collect water, I take a kolosh [jug], which holds 10 litres of water.
If I didn’t have to walk these long distances to get water, I’d have more time to take care of my family. I also wouldn't have as many health problems.

Climate change is happening now.

With your support, we can make sure Water Means Life in Bhetkhali.

Donate today

Donate today to help the Munda people survive the devastating floods and cyclones caused by climate change. 

We can't stop the weather but we can change its impact. Your donations will help fund a rainwater harvesting plant, weather-proof toilets and private washing facilities.  

With clean water, this community will finally have the freedom to learn, earn and thrive.  

Image credit: WaterAid/ Fabeha Monir

Grandmother holding child

Shyamoli with grandson, Ganga, 18 months, Bhetkhali, Bangladesh. June 2023.

Shyamoli with grandson, Ganga, 18 months, Bhetkhali, Bangladesh. June 2023.