Kalimpong, Oct. 20: As the hills gear up for the long dry winter months, residents here are worried over the prospects of living without adequate potable water. Given that even during monsoon people had to make do with half-an-hour of water supply — that too on alternate days — their fears are not unfounded.
“The outdated distribution system for drinking water is creating an artificial scarcity, even during the rainy season, because of countless leaks and illegal water connections,” said dental surgeon Tilak R. Takhtar of East Main Road.
The hundred-odd people who live on R.C. Mintri Road have submitted memoranda to various authorities, including subdivisional officer Shakeel Ahmed, municipality chairman C.K. Kumai, Kalimpong GNLF president Dawa Pakhrin and the local PHE office, demanding a permanent solution to the long-standing problem of water scarcity.
Many residents hold the water works department of the PHE, which supplies drinking water to urban households, of compounding the crisis. “The present system of distribution has created a mess with half-inch pipes, and in some cases even of one inch diameter, strewn like spaghetti along the roads and jhoras, blocking them in the process. The only beneficiaries of the antiquated system are the pipe-fitters of the department and people who supply water from polluted jhoras,” said Takhtar. “A thorough investigation into the number of illegal connections will open up a can of graft and corruption,” said Takhtar.
Other residents too agreed that the pipe-fitters have a vested interest in prolonging the crisis. “The fitters do not attend to leaks and are only interested in laying new connections. They charge Rs 6 per foot for laying new pipe lines,” said Raja Rai, another resident of East Main Road. They also allegedly provide illegal connections to the residents.
Senior PHE officials allegedly did not answer the charges of the residents. Surprisingly, the PHE provides connections to consumers directly from the huge storage tanks located in various places of the town. Which means that whether a consumer resides within a metre of the storage tank or 1000 m away, they have to lay their pipes right from the tank itself.
Takhtar feels metred water connections should be the way forward. “People should pay reasonable amounts at domestic and commercial rates every quarter like for electricity and telephone services,” he said.