Scarcity of drinking water in Guwahati



3rd  May 2011




Water is vital for all known forms of life especially for human existence. Water covers 70.9% of the Earth's surface i.e. more than two-third of the globe is covered by water. Yet getting safe drinking water has been a worldwide problem. Scarcity of drinking water is a major problem in Assam too specially in the city of Guwahati. With the “Tropical Monsoon Rainforest Climate”, Assam experiences heavy rainfall and high humidity and a massive river system that includes the mighty Brahmaputra and its numerous tributaries, Assam definitely can boast of adequate availability of water. However, in case of safe drinking water, Assam is very poor. The population in Assam with access to safe drinking water is only 77.55 per cent compared to the all India figure of 88 percent (the same is 84 per cent in rural areas and 95 per cent in urban areas).



In Guwahati, scarcity of drinking water is not unusual. Guwahati face water scarcity every year especially in the dry months. . The rapid depletion of ground water levels in the city is compounding the drinking water woes. The Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC), the Assam Urban Water Supply and Sewerage Board and the Public Health Engineering (PHE) department together supply drinking water to around 30 per cent of the city's population. Those who do not have access to this network, have to depend on their own sources as tube wells, ring wells, bore wells. However, wells in many areas of the city have almost gone dry due to the rapid depletion of ground water level. The only alternative left to them has to buy potable water for years. Those that are to be completely dried up or which have been further dug still deeper have also not remained safe sources. Water samples collected from them and from deep tube wells have been found to cross, the standard set for pure drinking water because of high levels of sulphur and iron contents. So, Private vehicles, big and small, with water tankers, fed by various sources are seen plying through roads and lanes of Guwahati to make doorstep delivery of drinking water at exorbitant prices. There is no question of verifying the quality of water or bargaining the price thereof by demanders since they need water at any cost to get going.

The Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), a flagship programme of Bharat Nirman project has sanctioned Rs. 280 crore for municipal water supply network in the western part of the city. Japan bank under international co-operation programme provided Rs 1500 crore for uninterrupted water supply projects covering the whole of Guwahati city, however, only the west Guwahati part comprising areas of Santipur, Maligaon, Pandu and Jalukbari have so far been brought under supply line. The fate of central, east and south Guwahati regions, however, still hangs in balance, reeling under acute water scarcity with many areas still depending partially on underground sources with high levels of iron and sulphur contents that could not be used without proper water treatment. A permanent solution needs to be worked out to tackle the problem of the drinking water.