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The ‘dryness’ of Manipur: Greater Imphal hit by drinking water crisis

File Photo of Singda Dam

There was a sigh of relief when there were some rains and hailstorm few days ago. But then the rains were too scanty to be of meaning or comfort to the general public at large especially in the greater Imphal area.

By Sanjoo Thangjam

The joke about Manipur being a “Dry State” is not because no liquor is available but rather it is the lack of drinking water that warrants the Dry State tag. The daily drinking water requirement for Imphal City is pegged at 23.6 million litres daily. Out of this, 9 million litres originates from the Singda, Kangchup and Kangchup extension treatment plants while 14 million litres come from the Leimakhong plant. But massive deforestation in the Leimakhong catchment area has drastically reduced the water table of the area and the Leimakhong River is completely dry now. The Singda plant had to be shut down and at the moment can supply only 6 million litres per day which is rationed. The fate of Singda and Kangchup plants are also almost similar to that of Leimakhong. Complete depletion of the Catchment areas of its forest cover and now compounded by top soil erosion. It might be recalled that in 1994 led by the then Governor of Manipur Lt. General (Retd) VK Nayar and manned by the members of the Manipur Mountaineering and Trekking Association (MMTA) had planted a total of 1.6 Lakhs tree saplings in the Singda catchment area. While the MMTA members had performed a yeoman’s job, the survival of the tree saplings were not in their hand and today not even a single tree has survived in the area.

But apart from it, there are three other Dams in Manipur erected for the sole purpose of supplying water for drinking and irrigation. The Dams are Dolaithabi, Thoubal Dam and Khuga Dams. Of the three, Thoubal and Khuga have already started functioning. But nobody seems to know as to whether any drinking water is being supplied from this two Mega projects apart from hundreds of villagers from their original homestead lands. So much for the talk of developmental projects, it is in this light we can ponder over the fate of the Rs.3054 Crore drinking water project for Manipur for which Prime Minister Narendra Modi had laid the foundation stone last year. The PM was elated that the project which would benefit 1731 villages 25 other towns besides Imphal and would be benefiting 280756 households and would be ready by 2024. The project being undertaken under the Jal Jeevan Mission seems to be alright on papers but would it be feasible or not is the question for the simple reason that you require water for any Water Projects to be feasible I the first case.And how are you going to manufacture water anyway.

This brings to mind another traditional source of water. If one could recall every Leikai in Manipur have always a Pond or Pukhri which would cater to the daily requirements of water be it for washing, cleaning or bathing purposes and at time if required be used for drinking purposes after boiling and filtration. The ponds like the Pats or Lakes of Manipur have almost all dried up or reclaimed and community Halls built over it. Some hard thinking needs to be done immediately and projects undertaken to dig up ponds in every Leikai though the sizes can vary according to the availability of land. Alternatively, a huge water storage lake can be dug up in Lamphelpat which used to be a natural water holding body. It is believed that the Government has a plan for it but it is yet to get a kick start. Alternatively, the Government should immediately concentrate on tapping the ground water potential of the state and start drilling for hand pumps. Another solution could be tapping the water of Loktak Lake through multi stage pumping to be brought to Imphal and treated for human consumption.

However, water is still available for people who can afford to buy from private distributors who sell them at rates varying from Rs.200 to 400 for 500 to 1000 litres. The water is sourced from rivers and often untreated but that is not a matter of concern. In as much as the Government is now providing free rice to the people, it must seriously ponder over providing free water to the people through ferrying it on water tankers.

The writer is a lay Buddhist & Social Activist for People Who Use Drugs (PUDS)

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