Water crisis looming large over state; residents start missing fish from menu

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Imphal,March 12:Manipur will be in the grip of a water crisis that could set back the region`s robust economic growth if left unresolved. Echoing this a resident of Sega road in Manipur’s Imphal west district said,“We’ve been missing fish from our menu as we’ve spent extra money on water”.

This Imphalite’s 4-member family spent at least Rs 20 daily (Rs 600 or 13 US dollar per month) to buy 200 litres of water. Thus his annual water budget has been rose to Rs 4000-5000.“This is a huge amount for a poor family like us”,he said.

Like him, thousands of Imphalites have been buying water every day for their daily needs even as state run water supply agency- Public Health Engineering Department(PHED) aims to provide at least 135 litres of water for an individual living in urban area and 40 litres per capita per day in rural areas. Thus 7.55 lakh estimated population of Imphal and sub-urban areas including floating population of para-military forces need 101.9 million litres per day(MLD),official sources said. Efforts are on to bridge the gap as the actual production from 17 water supply plants is hardly 70 MLD against its installed capacity of 101.3 MLD.

PHED’s annual report(2009-10) claimed that though 482 habitations remained uncovered out of state’s 2870 habitations having around 2.5 million population- 1163 habitations in rural Manipur has been fully covered with drinking water supply facilities while 1225 habitations partially covered with an annual expenditure of Rs 8330.70 lakhs on state’s water supply.

Large scale deforestation in the catchment areas of Manipur’s major rivers, irregular power supply, absence of supply pipelines or old pipeline leakage and the drastic changes in the annual rainfall pattern due to global warming and climate change are the main reasons for shortage of drinking water in Manipur.

“We used to make small dams at our intake points to enable us to pump-up river water for daily treatment since a decade’s back”, says an official of PHED stationed at Porompat water reservoir in Imphal east district that provides 3500 water tankers (10,000 litres capacity) per month in an average to the VIPs including who’s who in the state, besides supplying 4 lakh litres of water daily to state owned Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences near Imphal. The price of a water tanker has been rose to Rs 500-600 to Rs 700-800 since last month.

Researchers here observed that rainwater and groundwater besides the wetlands were the main water source of the state which comprises of 1820 sq km of flat alluvial valley and 20,507 sq km of hilly terrain which forms a part of the Himalayan mountain system.

Even the state’s ground water table automatically rises during rainy season but it lowers in the dry or lean season. Many tube wells which happen to be rural Manipur’s major water supplier, have been abandoned unused due to deforestation, climate change and other technical errors. But there’s no exact official figure even though 2379 tube wells were dug up ‘successfully’ across the state from 1982 to 2007.

“The ground water level is as shallow as just 15 feet during rainy season”, a PHED official said. “One can say our ground water potential also depends mainly on seasonal rain”. Such changes in the region’s rainfall pattern hit the ground water table tool, he added.

Last year, the monsoon has played hide and seek with Manipur taking the biggest beating as the state recorded 67 % deficit rainfall (till July) followed by Nagaland, Meghalaya and Assam with rainfall shortage of 62 %, 55% and 34%.

According to Meteorological (MET) Office, Imphal records, the state’s annual rainfall was 1161.6 mm in 2008 while 991.6 mm in 2009.It has around 1576.2 mm till December 10,2010. The state had a similar deficient rainfall in 2005 similar to that of last year (2009), as per Indian Meteorological Department records.

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