Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Jammu cries for water; PHE officials hold PDD responsible

“What happened to Rs. 435 cr project for lifting water from Chenab at Akhnoor to meet the growing water demand of the city of temples”?
With the summer on track, Jammu city and its suburbs with a population of about 15 lakh have started facing scarcity of drinking water. The situation is expected to worsen in the coming days as many of the water sources have already dried up. 
Tanker-owners are making bucks fast as residents of most of the new colonies in the outskirts of the main city are dependent on them for their drinking water requirements. Many colonies are being supplied drinking water twice a week by the Public Health Engineering (PHE) Department, while some get tap water on alternate days.
With the Mercury already crossing the 40°C mark, various areas of Jammu are reeling under severe water scarcity. Though the PHE Department has pressed in to service few water tankers yet majority of these areas are facing acute water shortage while the residents of various localities describe them as insufficient measures taken by the department.
According to official statistics, the Jammu city alone requires 37 millions gallons of water everyday whereas it gets only 30 millions gallons.
In Jammu, people could be seen in long queues near a water tanker for their turn to fetch water and many a times there have been scuffle between the people for getting their utensils filled before the tanks run out of water.
The taps trickle even in the posh localities of Gandhi Nagar and Trikuta Nagar. Drinking water shortage and unscheduled power cuts are done here only during ‘fair weather’.
Private tanker-owners can be seen doing advance booking for supplying drinking water in the localities of Sainik Colony, Channi, Narwal and Bhatindi on the outskirts of the town. A housewife in Sainik Colony cried that water was being supplied in her locality on every third day and there was no fixed time for the supply.
A tanker full of water is being sold for anything around Rs 450 in the town and Rs 500 outside. It is learnt that the tankers of the PHE Department undertake as many as 102 trips a day, while the private operators make a slightly more number of trips to supply water to the consumers.
It has not been understood as to what is the fault of citizens living in outer skirts of Jammu when they pay the same Water Tax as paid by the citizens living in urban area who are provided water for at least thirty hours in a month.
The position is equally bad in the old city where water is supplied from the Tawi which flows right in the middle of the town. Water is supplied only once for about 30 minutes a day in most of the areas.
The people of the district allege that as the annual Darbar has been moved to Kashmir, the State Government is not concerned about the plight of the people here for the next six months.
Even though the State Government had recently announced that it was seriously contemplating to formulate a new water policy for maintaining and streamlining the available natural water resources of the state, nothing much has been done to implement the policy till now.
They allege that the laxity of the department could be well gauged from the fact that it has failed to repair the worn-out pipes.
“The arrival of summer has been a curse for the people, especially housewives, as majority of them has to sweat out to fetch a pitcher of water. The shortage in our area has forced many of us to fetch water from other localities,” Sunita of Shastri Nagar said.
“Though the city is reeling under acute water shortage, the government has failed to replace the damaged pipes which contribute to more than 40 per cent loss of water in the area,” said an official of the PHE Department.
“Many times our water supply is diverted to the residents of the posh areas and we are being ignored,” Anuj Koul, a resident of Nai Bast locality, said.
“Wastage of water and leaking water pipes could also lead to contamination and cause serious water-borne diseases,” Krishan Sharma of Sarwal said.
It is not only the local population which is being catered to by the PHE Department, a large number of migrants from the border areas, the Kashmiri Pandit (KP) migrants from the Kashmir Valley and the heavy floating population of the pilgrims of the Vaishno Devi Shrine also depend on the existing water supply system, which is virtually worn out.
However, VK Abrol Chief Engineer, PHE, claimed that there was a shortfall of only seven million gallons of water in the town every day. Against the total demand of 37 million gallons, about 30 million gallons of water are being made available to the consumers. He also claimed that the only reason for the irregular supply of water is the power curtailment by the PDD Department. He assured that they have all the resources and will increase the supply of water up to 33 million gallons only if there will be regular supply of power to us.
One would also like to put a poser as to what has happened to the Rs. 435 crore scheme for lifting water from Chenab at Akhnoor to meet the growing demand of the city of temple. For all one knows this scheme was mooted during gubernatorial spell, mentioned off and on by the popular Government but nothing has moved. It shows apathetic attitude.
Had it been started in right earnest by now the scheme would have been nearing completion or already pumping water to the city? It is indeed a case of wrong priorities or better call it, pusillanimous approach.
Non-completion of Burn Power Receiving Station is another example of ignoring vital needs of the people. Even now usual alibi of funds shortage is mentioned for non-completion. This happens when 90% of the works are over and funds starvation comes when only 10% is left to be completed. Let it be clearly understood that such schemes must have priority over frivolous pursuits.
The concerned minister should see to it that new wells are commissioned immediately, other deepened and all possible steps taken forthwith to augment the potable water supply. (By Munish Gupta)