To Get To School, These Kids Must Cross a Deadly River
Children going to school in the Himachal region of northern India face a tough obstacle—a raging river gushing over the side of a rocky mountain.
Video taken near a village called Chamba in the Himachal Pradesh state shows how an especially torrential monsoon season has impacted schoolchildren. Rolling up their pant sleeves, the kids slowly wade across a fast-flowing river, stepping slowly over the submerged, rocky slope. One local outlet estimated that some stretches of the river are as wide as 49 feet.
Crossing the river is slow going and can reportedly take as long as 40 minutes. Children pause along the way to steady their balance. Many reach their hand back to those yet to cross, offering a steadying human chain. Many of the older children even carry the smaller ones on their backs.
According to reporting from the Times of India, the village consists of roughly 400 people, and its children must traverse just over a mile to reach their school.
Speaking with the Times, one villager noted the fears children face crossing the river, saying, "There is a lot of grass and vegetation on the slippery footpaths in the village. Risk of snakes and flashflood is always there."
Other regions of the state face similar difficulty crossing rivers. Children interviewed by India TV News explain that crossing rivers on their way to school presents an obvious and significant difficulty.
In an interview, one girl explained she tries asking adults to help her, but they aren't always available. "My clothes get wet, I have to untie my shoes, and my books get wet," she explained (translated from Hindi).
Each year, this region faces torrential monsoons. They supply essential water resources to the region, but they come with a price for those who must cross these gushing waterways.
A Rising Tide?
A study published earlier this summer in the journal Nature Climate Change found that Indian monsoons have strengthened over the past 15 years, particularly in northern and central India. Warming temperatures over the continent combined with less rapidly warming coastal waters have effectively created the perfect recipe for stronger monsoons.
News of children being forced to cross dangerous rivers just to get to school isn't unheard of in this region. The mountainous region is home to three major river basins and, as a watershed, it serves more than 200 million people. The region has so many powerful rivers that the World Bank heavily invested in building hydropower infrastructure in the region in 2014.
Key infrastructure the region often lacks, however, are bridges and roadways. And as monsoons strengthen, the consequences become more evident.
According to The Indian Express, three died in Hamachal on August 6 after heavy rains triggered dangerous landslides. Rains have reportedly damaged 170 roads and caused damage to 20 residential structures.
In early June, the Himachal government approved proposals to build 273 roads and 14 bridges in rural parts of the state. According to one local, a bridge was allegedly commissioned 10 years ago, but only two pillars have been erected since then.
During a time when India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in talks with Japan to build bullet trains in the country, some locals in hard-hit regions remain indignant that villages lack basic infrastructure.
Government officials from the Himachal Pradesh province could not be reached at the time of this article's publication.