Ukhrul: As the Monsoon season in Ukhrul takes leave for the year, Ukhrul crackles with the cry of water shortage crisis.
Even with more than six months of a healthy amount of rainfall, 1763.7 mm average annual rainfall, Ukhrul struggles to keep up with the demand for domestic water needs, especially during the dry winter seasons (December-May).
This is the time of the year when you witness people in long queues with buckets and pots early in the morning, we’re talking about 4 am, in winter.
Not to mention, the dried-up ponds, the empty tanks, and the very often inter locality water disputes.
They say, “In the midst of a crisis, lies great opportunity.” Indeed! As the water pipeline cuts away from irregular to almost never, some private drinking water businesses thrive by burning a hole in people’s pockets and getting away with it.
The first and the most seriously affected casualties of this crisis are the ones who cannot afford a tank, or a Sintex (plastic water storage), or any other form of storage structure, they are the first to run out of water as they depend on the community pond for their daily water needs and when these ponds run dry, they have no choice but to look for an alternative source of water, most often miles away. So, during these lean seasons, the department steps up and supplies water through water tankers at various localities on a routine basis.
Even those who own multiple Sintex or have direct pipeline suffers, and after a month or so, they too have to spend to sustain themselves.
Now the only people who don’t break a sweat are the ones who own big buildings, those who can and have built huge underground water storage with a capacity to last through the lean seasons. With proper housing plans, they have harvested enough rainwater and have saved up enough from pipelines as well.
The water in Ukhrul district headquarters comes from Shirui village from two sources viz i) Singuira source and ii) Kokthi kong.
The total number of legal water connections in Ukhrul town is around 1400. The total water demand of the town is about 14 lakh liters per day. The water available in the town during the lean season is about 5 lakh liters and during the monsoon season, about 23 lakh liters.
The pipeline water is also supplied to the consumers in a duration of 4/5 days gap during dry seasons. Due to this, the public has been facing a shortage of water every lean season for the past many years.
Other than piped water supply, the department has installed some hand pumps in Ukhrul town and some are functioning properly with a good yield of water. Although hand pumps are installed, pumps in certain areas yield less water. The technology of tapping underground water is not there at this moment but it may be feasible in the near future.
Now with the facts and the scenario of the current situation established, it’ll be worthwhile to understand the effort and the challenges faced by the department (PHED) during these lean seasons.
“As the water sources are depleting day by day, the department is facing difficulty in meeting the daily water demand of the town. The department in spite of the shortage of staff has been working relentlessly and trying its best to fulfill the needs of the public. But due to the shortfall of water at the sources, it is a big challenge for the department to give sufficient water to the public. Without proper development or the help of additional water sources, it is beyond the capacity of the department to fulfill the wishes and demands of the town”, M. Themreishang, Assistant Engineer, PHED, Ukhrul.
The main threat owing to the depletion of the water sources is deforestation. As more and more trees are cut down, the water-retaining capacity of an area decreases drastically, as a result, the water seeping underground that comes out as spring reduces. To spread awareness of this water cycle mechanism and to convince the private landowners not to cut down trees or practice extensive Jhum cultivation, especially near the water sources, the department has held many awareness programs and meetings with the Shirui villagers and authorities before.
Again, another problem faced by the department is the illegal tapping of water pipelines in many places within the district. The illegal tapping reduces the pressure of the pipelines, and as such, the water pressure becomes too weak to reach a certain point and as a result, a whole locality may be deprived of water supply just because of the deeds of the ignorant few.
And since the district has a hilly topography, the department struggles in providing an even water distribution to all points in the district, and the little advantage of natural gravitational distribution is lost when there is illegal tapping of water pipelines at important pressure points.
Undergoing and upcoming projects
A new project under New Development Bank (NDB) for Ukhrul town has been sanctioned and the work will be started shortly, likely in January 2022 at an approved cost of Rs. 24.52 Crore. Its main focus will be to provide water connection to every household in the town. All together 52 schemes will be implemented under NDB and another 42 schemes under Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) are going on in the district. With the completion of all the schemes, every village in the Ukhrul district will have functional household tap connections in the coming years.
A project for constructing a Dam at Yangui river (Shirui/Langdang) for storing and pumping water for Ukhrul town amounting to Rs. 150 crore has been proposed under NESIDS, Govt. of India. The approval is yet to be accorded. If this proposal comes out to be successful, then Ukhrul district headquarters will have the sufficiency of water in the years to come and the water demand of the populace will be met, said an official.
“Save water. Use water wisely and judiciously. Do not practice illegal tapping of water from the pipeline and do not pump water directly by electric water pump from tank or pipeline. Let us join hands and put our efforts into the sufficiency of water in the town. Construct Rainwater Harvesting tanks at the household level. We have the best rainfall during the monsoon.
Harvest it, save it and use it”, PHED Ukhrul.