In Manipur, the ambitious goal of extending safe drinking water to 4.5 lakh households by this year, under the Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM), has hit a staggering roadblock — a conflict stretching over eight months, crippling the state’s progress.
Launched in 2019 with a budget of Rs 3,137.42 crore, predominantly funded by the central government (90 per cent), the JJM implementation is stuck at a mere 77 per cent, struggling to overcome hurdles posed by ongoing ethnic conflicts.
Manipur’s Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) chief engineer Shangreiphao Vashumwo shed light on the disruptive impact of the conflict, which impeded the timely supply of crucial materials needed for the project’s execution.
“The conflict severely hampered the momentum of the project, obstructing material transportation from outside the state,” mentioned Vashumwo, emphasising the acute challenges encountered due to these disruptions.
Notably, logistical difficulties in conflict zones hindered the establishment of Village Water and Sanitation Committees, crucial for comprehensive rural coverage, further delaying on-ground implementation, Vashumwo lamented.
Despite serving Imphal and its environs, requiring 124 MLD (million litres per Day) of water daily, through 17 water treatment plants, disruptions in conflict-affected zones like Kangchup, Kangchup extension, and Potshangbam-II, coupled with sabotage at the Singda treatment plant’s pipeline, severely curtailed water supply.
Vashumwo expressed determination to reinitiate work in these conflict areas by engaging local youths from neutral communities on contractual terms. Additionally, plans to complete pipeline replacements and smart meter installations by mid-year aim to enhance water distribution efficiency.
The scarcity of government-supplied water forced households to rely on private vendors, purchasing approximately 5000 liters monthly at Rs 350 per 1000 liters—an exorbitant expense. Concerns about the procured water’s safety persist, with no established government measures to monitor its quality, raising doubts about its potability.
Collaborative efforts involving governmental bodies, community engagement, and strategic interventions are pivotal to surmounting these obstacles and ensuring the timely completion of this critical project.
In parallel, in-charge director of Manipur’s Environment and Climate Change department Tourangbam Brajakumar highlighted a looming crisis arising from the drying up of springs and the disappearance of wetlands, contributing significantly to the state’s water scarcity issue.
Brajakumar stressed the necessity of a governmental policy focusing on spring revival and effective water allocation management to avert an acute potable water shortage.
“While regions like Rajasthan and Delhi, with minimal annual rainfall (200mm and 400mm respectively), sustain sufficient water supply throughout the year, Manipur, receiving 1600mm annual rainfall, grapples with water scarcity—an anomaly,” stated Brajakumar.
He emphasised the unaltered water cycle and consistent rainfall in Manipur over recent years, yet highlighted a shortened monsoon period lasting two to three months, leading to intense but brief rainfall. This disrupts groundwater recharge, exacerbated by deforestation in hill catchment areas, causing spring desiccation and river water volume reduction.
“Nearly 62 percent of springs in the state have dried up due to this phenomenon,” Brajakumar disclosed, underscoring the urgency of a policy addressing spring revival to alleviate the water crisis.
Highlighting the critical role of wetlands in environmental purification, Brajakumar raised concern on a drastic reduction in wetland numbers—from 550 to a mere 119, contributing significantly to the adverse climatic conditions prevailing in the state.
To tackle this issue, the department is actively engaged in rejuvenating existing wetlands, aiming to mitigate the escalating environmental challenges.
The drying springs and vanishing wetlands, exacerbated by conflict-driven project delays, paint a grim picture of Manipur’s impending water crisis. Without immediate policy intervention and concerted efforts, the situation may exacerbate, impacting the lives of its residents and the region’s ecological balance.
The conflict’s ripple effects on vital water infrastructure and the looming specter of dried springs and vanishing wetlands paint a stark picture of an impending water crisis. Immediate policy interventions and concerted efforts are imperative to avert the looming catastrophe.