Amid increasing water stress and growing concern over depletion of natural spring that has adversely affected river hydrology, extraction of water from rivers for all purposes is increasing and largely affecting environment flows in Manipur.
Around 42 per cent of springs in Manipur's hill areas has disappeared, according to a report from the directorate of Environment and Climate Change.
At this crucial juncture, a survey carried out by the department of Civil Engineering, National Institute of Technology Manipur, found out that huge amount of water is abstracted from major rivers in Imphal valley such as the Iril River and Imphal River.
Imphal River, Nambul River and Iril River are major source of water in the Imphal valley and urban areas in the state. As such, many reservoirs of PHED department extract water from these rivers in order to supply tap water in the valley. Many privately owned water treatment plants are also mushrooming in the state as the government is unable to supply potable water to all till date.
Based on the report provided byJICA and PHED in 2015, total authorised water of PHED is 2,48,19,000 litres per day. This reporter tried to present the latest report on the amount of water drawn from rivers by PHED and waited for almost a month, visiting the office several times. But the department concerned failed to provide data on the latest amount of water consumption in the state.
However, it was learnt from reliable sources that as many as 34 private water treatment and potable water processing units have been registered so far. Many of them are yet to be registered.
According to a report of field hydrographic observation for Iril River conducted on November 9, 2021 by NIT Manipur, the amount of water discharged at Chingarel area was 10,620 litre per second, at Irilbung, it was 8120 litre per second and at Lilong area, it was 6,420 litre per second.
It also pointed out that from Iril River between Chingarel to Lilong (30 km stretches), water was extracted in an unregulated manner to the tune of 126 MLD after deducting for water supply scheme at Phaknung, Porompat and Irilbung, etc. The water level has depleted at an equivalent of 14.75 metres in just a stretch of 30 km.
The survey also observed that on a monthly average, Iril River flows at 15,120 litres per second in a year as per hydrological model and field calibrated observation. But its flow was depleted up to the extent of 4,500 liter per second, which is alarming.
Similar field hydrographic observations were also carried out in Imphal River the same day. The NIT team found that 16,480 litre per second amount of water was discharged at Heikrumakhong, 15,230 litre per second at Minuthong and 8,09,910 litre per second at Lilong area
The average flow has depleted up to the extent of 2,860 litre per second which is alarming. The unregulated water extraction was carried out to the tune of 66 MLD from this river between Heikrumakhong to Lilong area after deducting for water supply schemes at Old Thombuthong, which is a dangerous level. The water level had depleted at an equivalent of 9.45 metres in just a stretch of 26 km (between Heikrumakhong to Lilong area).
Speaking to the Imphal Free Press, head of department of Civil Engineering, NIT Manipur, assistant professor Ngangbam Romeji said that Manipur, endowed with a balance hydro-climatic condition, occupies 4.18 per cent of the Indian Himalayan Region with three major river basins and numerous sub-basins. But the once subtle and bountiful hydro-climatic (condition of water bodies was good) region of Manipur is dwindling and becoming fragile to its environment.
Unprecedented climatic variations in the past two to three decades have caused devastating floods, droughts, landslides etc in this once blessed biodiversity region, he added.
He pointed out that over-extraction of water from rivers coupled with extreme receding of water level rivers in the state severely threaten the whole ecosystem of river. Considering the changing climatic condition as global phenomenon, there is a need of proper regulation of water extraction from river otherwise it may no longer exist.
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"The water supply schemes taken up by PHED at Porompat (Iril River), Phaknung (Iril River), Irilbung (Iril River), Old Thombuthong (Imphal River) etc has no hydraulic regulation for river water extraction or so, resulting in water scarcity at lean season. Properly mensured and hydraulically regulated water supply plants or units are units are required to maintain minimum flows in the river systems for both environmental and climate change impact", he suggested.
Interviewing one of the owners of privately owned water treatment or processing unit at Top Khongnangkhong, Imphal East in a very simple way with just two tanks having a size of 1 lakh each and a water motor pump, said that to run his unit he used to draw water from Iril River with at least six days in a week with a quantity of 1 lakh per day.
The unit was started two years ago with the objective to provide clean water at low price to his community which is being deprived of tap water service of the state government, he said.
Several people facing difficulties in fetching water from Iril River made him begin the treatment plant. He said that the unit was started just to serve his local communities. However the demand is growing each day, and he has been delivering water in many constituencies.
When asked about the changing condition of Iril River, the owner said the condition of river is deteriorating each day both in terms of quantity and quality. Sometimes even local people used to restrict to draw water from it as the water level goes down to an alarming level during lean season.
Similar water processing units are also set up along Imphal River.
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Joint Director, directorate of Environment and Climate Change, T Brajakumar said that except for the water from Barak River, Manipur doesn't have any source of inflow of water into the state, but rather it outflows to other parts of the country.
With the ever-growing water scarcity as climate change induced problem enduring in the state, there is a need to conserve natural springs of the state, he added.
He continued that the state received good amount of annual rainfall but its precipitation pattern has changed which has resulted in water scarcity. However, if springs are rejuvenated by preserving the forest and its ecosystem and aquifers are protected from damage while taking up infrastructure project as some of the prime concern, environmental flows of river can be maintained to a great extent.
While appealing to people of the state to extend their cooperation in preservation of environment, he said that without collective effort from every section of society, the issue of environment can never be addressed successfully. For this, people's attitude towards nature must change.