As Manipur struggles to limp back to normalcy from the ethnic clashes that sparked off widespread fear and tension across the state, water woes mount, adding to the pain and sufferings of the people. Several private water supply tankers are exploiting the prevailing unrest situation by hiking the water rates for the residents, especially in the Imphal Valley area already facing the problem of water scarcity.
Taking advantage of the situation, private water supply tankers are now selling 1,300 litre water tanker loads, which used to cost Rs 250 in April, between Rs 800 and Rs 1,000 and Rs 1,200 in the state capital, Imphal.
The state has been reeling under acute water scarcity problem, as most of the rivers and water supply sources in the state are drying out owing to the drying up of catchments and springs. People in Manipur have been suffering this water woes for the last several months.
The problem of water shortage worsened in the wake of the recent sudden outbreak of ethnic clashes between the Meitei and Kuki communities that left several dead and hundreds injured in several parts of the state. The sudden outbreak of violence and the series of events have caused widespread tension and unrest in the state. Fear and panic still grip the state.
A curfew is in place in several violence-hit districts, and internet services are suspended across the entire state. While normalcy is said to be limping back, attacks, killings, abductions, and stray incidents of violence are reportedly continuing in parts of the state.
Amid the widespread tension and restrictions on movement of people, some private water tankers have hiked water supply rates, citing shortages of petrol or diesel and the drying up of water sources and water in water supply plants in the state.
Several people have raised complaints about the high water rates, particularly in Imphal city and its surrounding areas.
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Taking serious note of the water supply problem, state Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) Minister L Susindro has asked all private water tankers to stop selling water at exorbitant rates. He warned that if the department officials find any private water tankers hiking water rates, the vehicle will be seized and an FIR may be lodged.
Interacting with mediapersons at his residence, located in Khurai, he said that there is no need to increase the price of water.
“Available water can be shared,” he said, adding, “Do not hike the water rates considering the prevailing condition of the state. It is not the time to earn profit; there will be a time for business. Help each other”.
The minister said from the water supply plant, the department is charging a filling fee of Rs 120 for 12,000 per litre. There is no need to increase the water rate, citing high transportation expenses. If any private tanker takes a higher rate than before, inform the authorities concerned to address the matter, he said.
“If any water tanker is found selling water at a high rate then the department will seize the vehicle,” he added.
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He also said that tap water will be provided in some particular areas, not at all places. So, in some places, the tap water supply has stopped.
“Unfortunately, some miscreants of a specific community have blocked the water pipeline to Chingkheiching at Thoubal dam area,” the minister said, adding that due to it, supply of water from Chingkheiching has been put on halt.
The minister, however, said that he has requested the advisor to the chief minister (Home) to provide adequate security at Thoubal dam area.
The water filling points will be set at 10 areas under Iroishemba, the minister said, adding that a huge amount of water required should come to water bodies.
The minister also said that some water tanks of Khuman Lampak have been stolen by unknown miscreants.
“Return those tankees, or else an FIR will be initiated. The water supply is given at Porompat water plant, Porompat TV tower plant, Koirengei water plant and Khuman Lampak,” he said.
He also said that water will be released during the night at the Imphal River for people living near the riverbank.
It may be mentioned that in an effort to address the water problem of the people, the state government took up the construction of tanks in some respective zones and even took water from Chingkheiching, located in Imphal East.
On February 19, Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh had launched a water treatment plant with a capacity of 45 mld at Chingkheiching to provide water to the people, initially in Imphal city.
And, on February 28, the PHED minister suggested making a new law to check and control the private water suppliers against the unauthorized collection of pipe water that is provided for public use. He had then said that the PHED department was taking various initiatives to link the newly installed water pipeline from Chingkheiching to the Singda water supply line in order to solve the water issues in the Imphal area.
Also Read: Water woes mount for people amid water price hike in Imphal valley
The minister also said that the department was planning to get water from the Ijei River, Loktak Lake, and Barak River in an effort to solve the water scarcity issues in the state. He had then further said that a permanent solution to avoid drinking water scarcity is to stop deforestation,and the government needs to make a law to prevent mass deforestation, especially in the hilly areas of Manipur.
He also mentioned that the state government has given water connection to as many as 3,44,105 households of a total 4,51,566 households in the entire state under the Jal Jeevan Mission,
However, despite the state government's efforts and plans, the water pipes in most households continue to run dry even to this day. And, residents in Imphal and surrounding areas continue to depend on private water tankers to meet their daily water needs.
Expressing serious concern over the plight of the people in the wake of the problem of water scarcity across the state, the Imphal Free Press has been repeatedly raising the serious issue in several of its reports and editorials.
Now, the crisis situation prevailing in the state, the hike in water rates by private water tankers, and the soaring prices of other essentials have increased the woes of the common people who are hoping for the government to bring real change and development in the state.