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Editorial

A case for saving water

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By EMN Updated: Mar 22, 2014 12:59 am
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[dropcap]W[/dropcap]orld Water Day 2014 is a landmark day for ‘Water and Energy,’ not just for those people that advocate awareness and change, but also for the 768 million people that suffer the reality of not having access to improved water sources every day and for the 1.3 billion people who lack access to electricity. This year World Water Day (WWD) highlights the interlinkages between Water and Energy, in a world where the population will need 35% more food, 40% more water and 50% more energy by 2030. United Nations report warns rising energy demand will stress fresh water resources.The world’s freshwater resources will suffer from efforts to meet the growing global demand for energy, concludes the 2014 United Nations World Water Development Report (WWDR). Launched in Tokyo on 21 March, the report critically reviews the lack of coordination and planning between the two domains and urges improved management and planning at all levels to avoid shortages in energy and water supplies, and the further deterioration of natural resources. “The 2014 World Water Development Report shines light on the interdependence between the management of water and energy,” said Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO “This interdependence calls for vastly improved cooperation between these sectors because there will be no sustainable development without better access to water and energy for all,” she added.Samhita Barooah from TISS Guwahati observes that the mountain ecosystems are dependent on water sources, water sharing and water use. Water is gradually becoming a commodity of great value. Community lands, water sources and forest areas are gradually being owned by individuals, chieftains of clans, powerful elites and corporations who are imagining a modern development model for the remote hills of Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Sikkim, Nagaland and Manipur. That water is a precious commodity is clearly seen in the practical but also delicate use of bamboo channels in villages of Nagaland which channelize the water and store water in the community tank from where the entire village gets their share. In every terrace field there is a farm pond to retain water for the field and aquatic life forms like fish, frogs, crabs and snails constituting an essential part of the diet.’
There is a rapid change taking place in the northeastern region as the pace of ‘development marches across the mountain villages. But this development is leaving out a critical index that of making fresh water available in the homes and ensuring that there is sufficient water for a growing population. In the absence of detailed planning, equitable distribution of water in the cities in the northeast, has become an impossible reality.
The problem is already manifest in the emerging cities in the North East Mountain region.
One common refrain in Gangtok in Sikkim, Aizwal in Mizoram, Kohima in Nagaland, Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, Shillong in Meghalaya even hill ranges of Guwahati in Assam, is the adverse water scarcity. The shortage is a biting reality.
The cities are nightmares during the rainy season with flash floods and landslides and in the dry winter months water scarcity,at its worst. The government water supply department is incapacitated to meet demands and the population depend on private water suppliers, more often than not, throwing household budgets out of gear. Often this will translate into the family sacrificing books for their children, a pair of new shoes or simply nutritious food or medicines. If there is no clash in the streets it is probably because they taking place inside homes within families.
The prices of privatised water supply is unregulated complicating the issue. In cities like Shillong, Kohima, Guwahati and Aizwal anything between Rs 300-350 for 1000 litres in Shillong and Rs 900 for 2000 litres in Aizwal. In Kohima the rates exorbitant at Rs. 600-800 for 1500 litres and in Guwahati it is Rs. 250-300 for 1000 litres.
Mountain springs are no longer recharged due to erratic rainfall patterns and climate variations.At a micro level the battle for water is already being played out in villages in our state. Recent reports from Peren town the headquarters of Peren district, say there is standoff between communities over the issue of water sharing. Old Jalukie villagers have prohibited Peren town dwellers from fetching water from the nearby Keleireu stream under old Jalukie village.The village has also imposed penalty on offenders. This year the water forsaken Peren town is being forced to buy drinking water at the astronomical rates of Rs.250 to Rs. 350 for every 500 Ltrs. That is approximately Rs 50 a litre.
What is distressing is that the youth are manning the sale of water.
This can only herald the sign of a more hardened conflict if authorities do not address the issue with wisdom and speed.
The population in Peren town have been subjected to a ‘cosmetic’acute water shortage owing to mismanagement and non maintenance of water pipes by the concerned department. Water scarcity is an experience that most households are familiar with but this has only recently increased after PHE water supply over 40 years old, living out twice its lifespan and rusted often burst and simply cannot hold water anymore..
Observers form the village have lamented that water in the stream is flowing out anyway and it unthinkable that whether a stream falls under Jalukie or Peren , the free flowing water which willl find its way elsewhereand into the earth is out of reach for those who need it to freely access the same.
Finally, as Samhita Barooah writes in her report “Water Without Boundaries”… ‘the topography of North East India is such that it has a common ecosystem for the entire region beyond the international borders as well. Upstream activities of Bhutan, China and
Nepal will have a direct impact on the hill ranges and flood plains of Assam and Bangladesh. Unless we create a common ground to think about possibilities as an International Regional Ecosystem Collective, no viable solution can be drawn from the inevitable disasters which are at the doorstep of the North East Region.
Somehow North East Region needs to develop a platform for cooperation for alternative local technologies and innovations which will minimize the impact of water woes on the region. This process needs support from all related quarters’.

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By EMN Updated: Mar 22, 2014 12:59:21 am