Water shortage hits Jammu

Shiban Khaibri

After air, it is the water which keeps us hydrated and thus alive. We cannot even think of any substitute to it or doing without it right from our birth to death. It is a wonderful boon from the omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent Supreme Power and is colourless, odourless but with a nectar like taste. Water denotes and sustains life. Our state has abundant rich treasure of water sources, the lakes, the springs, the rivers, snow capped mountains, glaciers and the like but with expansion of cities, increase in population, the tastes and life styles, the ever increasing requirements of the people, our lakes and rivers are shrinking and water bodies drying up or dying fast . It should send warning bells to all of us to find ways as to how we can value, preserve and harvest water for our very survival or else the day is not far when the situation shall reach for scrambling for availability of drops becoming difficult. We are watching the situation in most of the parts of northern India , even Mumbai where people complain of the acute shortage of water, quality being a different matter there and young, old, men, women, children are scurrying from place to place for getting a bucket of water.

Water is much precious and so important that our ancient Indian scriptures accord to it a place of reverence to the extent of the sources of water being worshipped. Our state being rich in water sources, it seems prosaic that people in large numbers have to come on streets to demonstrate against the erratic , irregular and very short supply of water in Jammu division. Come summer and at many places, it is virtually, “water, water nowhere, not a drop to drink.” What and where is the problem especially in those urban, city areas which have over the years come up in the form of cluster of colonies. ? As per rough estimates, a shortage of nearly 2.5 million gallon per day as a result of gap between demand for and supply of water is faced in Jammu division. This gap, especially in hot and scorched summer is adding to the woes of the people. PHE authorities maintain that the problem is aggravated in those colonies which are unplanned. The Chief Engineer of the PHE has clarified that the city is fast expanding and private colonies are coming up without taking into account the availability of water where later on people have to suffer.

PHE department may have its own version of the cause of the problem but why is it that certain parts of the city are having reasonably adequate supply of water, for long durations and even a supply made twice a day while most the city areas get abysmally less supply ? What about the pipe leakages and colossal wastage of water and other related bottlenecks in ensuring a need based supply? The department has , therefore, to face public wrath at many places about which the Minister incharge Taj Mohi – ud – Din says, ” it is unfortunate that my department has to face public wrath for the “mistakes” of others.” He says that we are not actually short of water as 38 crore gallons of water is available. He claims that nine million gallons per day has been added to the daily supply. Parking the root of the problem at the Power Development department, he says that it is only due to unscheduled power cuts that water supply is halted and the government is not solely responsible for that. The Minister further said, “A joint initiative is required in this regard. I want to make it clear to the masses that any break in the water supply is not due to water scarcity and there is no lethargy from our side.” He had words of advice too for the people as he did “urge the masses to make judicious use of electricity as people have been using more than the allocated units.” The Minister gave, thus, a clean chit to his department and held the Power department responsible for not only the mess in the supply of electricity but about the water problem as well for the supply of which the demonstrations at many places of the people have been met with the use of Police force as well. Why has the PHE not found out their own arrangements to meet the problem of unscheduled power cuts in the form of installations of diesel run generators or made special arrangements with the Power department for a special line to keep their supply of water going? We do not wholly dispute their claim that the department is unresponsive to the peoples’ sufferings but a lot is required in the area of providing potable water to the people and if funds generating is any problem, why should the department not find ways to augment them from within even thinking about installation of water meters. The problem, however, should not be like the electronic metering by the PDD with initial promises of uninterrupted power supply for 24 hours as an incentive but later subjecting people to ruthless unscheduled cuts in this extremely hot summer.

Some hope of improvement in the position is expected following recently inauguration of a water filtration plant with 50000 gallons per hour discharge capacity at Borie in Bahu Fort , by Taj Mohi -ud-Din, the Minister for PHE , Irrigation and Flood control although the work for it was taken up as back as in the year 2002. The plant could make adequate drinking water available for areas like Bhatindi, Nowabad, Channi, Sainik colony, Rajiv Nagar etc; where the supply during the day shall be made twice. If additional 9 lakh gallons per day are added as claimed by the department with this plant, then not only a few areas but those in the city with deficient water supply should also be benefited and new pipes with at least 6 inches dimensions should be laid out and old worn out smaller capacity pipes thus replaced in such areas on priority basis so that the inhabitants of such areas “reap” the fruits of the new filtration plant. It is also heartening that for the “convenience” of the general public and up keep of PHE and revenue related records , the government has enforced Public Services Guarantee Act (PSGA) under which one could get the things done pertaining to different departments in a time bound manner and any delay in this regard by the concerned office was liable to be viewed seriously.

The matter of matching demand and supply of water needs no short cuts, patch work or ad hock solutions but a well revised state water policy is required to be implemented as in the years to come, management of water in the state especially in Jammu division is likely to assume very critical importance. We have to revive convential supply sources and it is sad that as per a rough estimate in Jammu area alone, more than very important 500 ponds and water bodies are in ruins which could be revived and pressure on tap water to some extent eased. Integrated Water Shed Programme needs to be reviewed with utmost zeal. The Indus River Water Treaty too needs reviewing in the light of the Assembly resolution of 2003 urging the centre to review the treaty with Pakistan which , under the treaty, has unrestricted access to water of Chinab, Veth or Jehlum and Sindh or Indus. We are not in a position to harness our rivers to full potential affecting our irrigation of nearly one lakh acres of land and denying o a generation of 15000 MW power generation. Generating revenue from the increased implementation of Water Resources Act 2010 with a target of the revenue generation of Rs. 1500 crores per annum by levying water usage charges from the power projects should be extensively used to conserve and manage the water resources. Rain water harvesting is very vital and could be taken up in collaboration with technical groups across the country like Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) and all the three modes, viz; rain water harvesting , roof top harvesting and more importantly, surface water harvesting should be taken up so that rapidly depleting ground water reserves are replenished.