Leader writer: S. Haobam
In recent years, threat of water scarcity has been a frequently discussed topic. Public Health Engineering Department had announced that there would be scarcity of drinking water which is an alarm bell for residents in and around Imphal. Reason behind as proved by the department is the low level of water at the treatment plants at Kangchup and Singda which supplies drinking water to many parts of Imphal and its surrounding satellite villages. Water scarcity in this part of the state would make life miserable, statistically to about 40 percent of the state’s population which reside in Imphal and its adjoining areas.
There are many reasons for the lack of water availability and if the government does not take proper measures right away, the future will be literally ‘dry’ not only in dry seasons which falls around March-April every year. The problem in Manipur is that fresh drinking water is being used for everything which in the past was not done as there were ponds for each household. Another fact is that the elite and middle classes have given up on piped drinking water as water pipelines in Imphal are in a mess and moreover unhygienic. People in the past have witnessed on several occasions about seepages to the drinking water pipelines.
Moreover the department does not control the usage of water by consumers and does not bother to check wastage of water. Safe drinking water is amongst the most basic essentials of life and crucial for good health and continued productivity. The state must do better in terms of its efforts to rehabilitate the areas facing scarcity in drinking water and rebuild structures and infrastructures. These efforts should be multi-pronged and not a short sighted scheme.
Our water supply systems are under great stress; piping networks are old and need to be upgraded. Due to lack of money, not to talk about inefficiency, the so-called fresh drinking water is fast turning into a disease-inducing factor. Let us not forget that about 80 per cent of all diseases and more than one-third of all deaths in developing countries are caused by contaminated water.
Water scarcity is a more relative concept describing the relationship between demand and supply which the PHE department has been not paying attention since the past few years. If policies of the government do not change, water scarcity will not only exacerbate existing situation. This may even lead bigger threat than the problems that the state is facing at present if not solved in the earliest and there might even be no way in bailing out water scarcity situation if it ever occurs.
Monsoons may sooner or later arrive but what is required is the attentiveness of the PHE department if in case monsoon fails to arrive and how the situation would be tackled. It is time for serious action because the debate on water will certainly trigger unanticipated alarm. One of the great contradictions in human nature is that we value things only when they are scarce. All life depends on water and ensuring uninterrupted supply of drinking water as well as management by the department in not wasting precious water is all that citizens need. If scarcity becomes the norm, there is a possibility of conflicts over water in the near future. A government is elected to help the people, not to ignore their needs.