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By Maitreyi Koduganti Venkata.
Captura de Tela 2021-05-06 às 17.13.12.

Illustrations are made by school children in Lodhva. Consent has been taken to publish them as appropriate. 

Lodhva is a semi-arid coastal village that sits in the southernmost region of Gujarat, India. We spent three months in this village tracing their relationship with groundwater through ethnography.

Owing to its close proximity to the Arabian sea, most of the groundwater in Lodhva is saline. Despite this, people are largely dependent on water from wells for irrigation and consumption, as they don’t have an alternative source of freshwater. People, especially women and young girls walk for over two kilometers to fetch water from these wells. 

Captura de Tela 2021-05-06 às 17.16.02.

Groundwater in and around Lodhva has multiple users – villagers, industries and the local municipalities. Indiscriminate use and uncontrolled discharge of polluted water contaminates and pollutes the already saline groundwater in Lodhva. 

The impacts of accessing and using saline groundwater in their everyday lives are many – wear and tear of the body, deep rashes, skin infections and kidney-related problems. Groundwater salinity has deep impacts on the social relations, i.e., how it interacts with the human body and how it affects intimate relations between people  who are involved in daily dealings with saline groundwater.

Children carrying pots of water on their head complained of eyes burning as saline water dripped into their eyes affecting their vision. 

Young girls expressed that continuous use of groundwater caused itching and deep rashes on their bodies, and sometimes in their private parts. However, they refrained from itching in public fearing shame and embarrassment. They tend to overlook their emotions and continue with their daily chores. 

Married women indicated that deep rashes in private parts altered sexual relations with their husbands. They feel ugly, unworthy and deprived of physical love and care from their husbands. However, for some women accessing water from the wells was a source of joy, as it a getaway from the daily chores and social norms. 

Captura de Tela 2021-05-06 às 17.19.29.

We realized that emotions are experienced differently by different people. They are largely centered around the bodily experiences, wherein body itself presents as a source of vulnerability, because it is through the body that one becomes vulnerable to the material environment - in this case to the salinity of water.

We evidenced that access to and usage of resource is not just beyond the materiality of water, rather it is deeply entangled with the materiality of water, of emotions and of bodies which are often under-valued in any water provision or development related works. 

Maitreyi Koduganti Venkata holds a Masters in Water Management and Governance from IHE Institute for Water Education, Delft. In her thesis, she explored the role of groundwater salinity on the bodies and emotions of people from a feminist political ecology lens. 

Currently she works at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements, Bangalore, India, conducting research at the intersection of climate sciences, agriculture and gender studies.  

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TWITTER: @maitreyikv

Illustrations are made by school children in Lodhva. Consent has been taken to publish them as appropriate. 

These reflections are taken from my Masters thesis work titled: Salt and Emotions: Understanding the role of groundwater salinity in shaping bodily experiences and emotions in Lodhva, Gujarat, India at IHE-Delft guided by Margreet Zwarteveen, Gabriela Cuadrado and Jeltsje Kemerink-Seyoum. 

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