Manipur PHED Minister L Sushildro’s recent comment in the state Assembly has become a talking point around town. Sermonising about using water judiciously is alright. But, talking as if the common folks are wasting water the minister had said that the water supplied by PHED to the public is for drinking purposes only. Yes, the mandate of Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) is to supply safe drinking water to the general public besides sanitation and other things. But, are we getting safe drinking water from pipes?
There are several complaints about the quality and safety of the water supplied by PHED through pipes from its various supply points. The pipes are leaking in many places and the water is sometimes mixed with filth from the drains. Everyone knows that, there are so many unauthorised connections in the pipeline and there is even talk of some PHED employees involved in organising such unauthorised connections.
One of the favourite slogans of BJP leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi was that before 2017 only 6 percent were availing drinking tap water in the state of Manipur and now 62.19 percent families are having that facility. Well, there is some truth in it as pipes had been laid to give safe drinking water coverage in many areas and also the process of pumping water from Thoubal Dam to Chingkheiching Water Treatment Plant had begun and it is said water supply to some areas of Imphal had started. But pipes need water for it to reach the homes.
Again the problem is when water comes in the pipes, the push or pressure is not enough for the water to reach the water tanks installed at homes without a pump.
We are more concerned right now about the acute scarcity of water facing the state. With springs and rivers drying up, catchment areas lying in waste and wetlands vanishing, the future is very bleak for our state. Manipur experiences water scarcity due to lack of facilities to harvest rainwater and destruction of catchment areas, as per reports.
Manipur has been receiving an annual rainfall of 1,467.5 mm, which is higher than the national average. There are also reports showing that 42 per cent of the natural springs in the hill areas of the state have vanished. Major portions of Imphal city has been facing water scarcity and have had to depend on private water tankers. In fact, private water supply has become a booming business.
On the other hand some enterprising people have started opening private water treatment plants near the rivers. For those who could afford to buy 10,000 litre at Rs 7,000 and 1,700 litres at Rs 500, it is alright. But to the poor urban families, it has become a major burden with the MLAs turning a blind eye to the woes of the poor who cannot afford to buy water.
Coming back to the minister’s comments, we must say that water is not for drinking only. People use water not only for drinking but for cooking our meals, washing utensils and cloths, and bathing not to mention flushing the toilets. Water is the life-blood of people and without it our throats will be parched, we will be hungry and unclean.
In most urban areas, people no longer depend on piped water for drinking and sometimes even for cooking as they buy 20 litre water bottles at homes which are re-filled. And whatever water which managed to reach the homes are used for other purposes. In the past, people use the water from rivers and ponds in the leikais. But now, the water in the rivers are so polluted nobody uses it and ponds have vanished due to population explosion and MLAs constructing community halls in its place. So Mr Minister, point us in the right direction or the water-hole to get water for washing and cleaning ourselves.