Water crisis: water for growth

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Leader Writer: Shobaraj Yumlembam
With the largest freshwater lake in the entire North Eastern region of the country, regular monsoon rainfall along with the presence of lakes, dams, rivers, canals and ponds under its belt, the popular perception is that Manipur must be a water sufficient state. However, the bitter reality is that while there are flash floods happening with only a short span of rains, the rest of the time period is fast becoming drought prone. In fact, the water supply system in the state has created inconveniences to the public rather than comfort, which it is meant to be. Improper drainage system, the pollution of water body pollution, deforestation etc are some of the manmade reasons causing water scarcity despite there being many natural water bodies in the state.

To add to the public inconveniences over the water woes, the state government’s Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) has recently come up with an official statement that consequent to the receding water level at Singda Dam, one of the largest water bodies of Manipur, the treatment plants at Kangchang and Singda are running short of capacity production. As a result and in order to manage the current crisis, PHED has been compelled to make changes in the supply of water from the two plants. According to an official of the department, it has received 70% or 80% of the required volume of water instead of 9.0 million liters for a long time, and it has earlier referred to February, March, April and May as lean months every year due to scarcity of water. But the critical question here is what they do with the water from the rest of the months.

It must be in the knowledge of the state government that cities and industries need water for growth. There are various successful endeavors being taken up across the country in terms of of rain water harvesting, river revival, water shed system etc which are put in place so that scant rainfall can be harnessed in the lean season for use and consumption. Given the amount of rainfall in the state and the topography of the state with slopes and low lying areas, water harvesting ventures would be a very sustainable exercise. One another option would be to clean up river bed and clear up siltation so that river flow is maintained.

While, experts point out that the amount of rainfall in the state is on the decline, the state of affairs is not as low as the percentage or proportion in arid places like Rajashthan or the Kuth region or even in the Southern parts of the country. A mere10-12 days of rainfall in a year is more than sufficient for irrigation, drinking, and other uses throughout the year, in Laporiya Village of Rajasthan where desert known for water scarcity and arid climate exists. The ‘Chauka system-water shed’ is a unique water conservation scheme to outwit drought, built under community participation in the village there. Chaukas are rectangular plots of land which store water in bund pastures dividing the open, grassy plains into 66 meters long and 132 meters wide cells. About 1.5m high bunds are built along the three sides, where monsoon water gets collected. As the amount of water stored in a chauka rises, it flows to neighbouring chaukas, finally flowing into the monsoonal drain. This is how people groups, NGOs and locals get together sort out water problem there. Instead of waiting for Government agencies to take time in taking note of the water issues in the area, the locals have come up with ideas and practices of community participation. This is something that can be learn and put into practice in the state considering that Manipur is not an arid place but has a longer spell of the wet season. The state government can also opt for lake and river restoration projects. Elsewhere in the country, there are desalination treatment plants for sea water showing that technology can indeed solve issues of drinking water. Such initiatives if taken in Manipur would work well considering that the water in the region do not contain salt or is as polluted as it is in the rest of the country. All that it would need to address the water woes in the state are initiative, foresight and commitment.

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