Water Scarcity in Manipur: Choice or Chance

Marchang Reimeingam *

Water Scarcity : People fetching water on March 26 2015   at Gwaktabi, Yaingangpokpi Imphal Ukhrul Road
Water Scarcity : People fetching water on March 26 2015 at Gwaktabi, Yaingangpokpi Imphal Ukhrul Road :: Pix - Shankar Khangembam

Water one of the inevitable elements of life is increasingly on menace merely because of human intervention in the natural environment. The scarcity of water originated with an increased of population pressure on land. It arises as the carrying capacity of the earth in general and state of Manipur in particular became vulnerable as human being attempts to meet their needs beyond replacement.

The natural water course or flow is increasing exploited and disturbed due to an expansion in human settlement, extension of land for agriculture especially shifting cultivation in the hill areas of Manipur, concrete work on earth surface such as road construction and so on. In the process of urbanisation the course of water table and level is depleting and changing.

People in the hills or valley of the state are increasingly facing water scarcity problems fiercely especially in the dry season due to the lack of rainfall. Land surface has not only faced inadequacy in water recharging due to the shortfall in rain but also soil is unable to absorb and retain water sufficiently partly due to concreted or cemented land development work in urban areas. Deforestation is also largely contributing for water scarcity. It resulted to soil erosion and creates difficulty in absorbing and retaining rain water in the soil.

In summer the problem of water is aggravated in the state. Some people would blame to human intervention on nature and some to poor government planning. It’s too unfortunate to face a water scarcity amidst abundantly available natural water resource. Water scarcity in the state is a matter of choice and chance.

According to the United Nations the water supply for each individual must be sufficient and continuous for personal and domestic uses. Water uses for personal and domestic cover purposes for drinking, sanitation, washing, food preparation and hygiene. As per the World Health Organization the per capita daily water requirement is set between 50 and 100 litres to meet the basic personal and domestic needs.

Do every individual of Manipur consistently have 50 litres of water at their disposal daily? Water requirement definitely vary depending on the climatic condition and human activities. Developed or urban areas requirement and usage of water is greater than the developing or least developed or rural areas. Nevertheless, effective and efficient water supply would determine the availability of water. In Manipur, water scarcity is synthetic in nature because of inefficiency in water planning by the government. It is an ironic situation that the government of Manipur could not administer diligently and effectively to tap the available water resources in the hills as in the valley.

As per census of India 2011, about 32 percent of the people of Manipur live in urban areas that comprises of less than one percent of the total state’s geographical areas. In the hill districts about ten percent of the people live in urban areas. Geographical urban area in the hill districts is insignificant in size. Not surprisingly, about 46 percent of population of valley districts live in urban areas that constituted about eight percent of the geographical areas of the valley urban areas.

Population pressure on land is rapidly increasing particularly in urban areas due to migration from rural to urban areas. As a result the demand for water increases corresponding to an increased in urban population. Nevertheless, many household still fetch drinking water from a distant. The 2011 census data reveals that about 37 percent of the households in Manipur fetch drinking water away from their home premises; about 15 percent within their premises; and 47 percent near their premises. A large proportion of rural households (40 percent) and urban households (32 percent) source of drinking water is located away from their premises. It invites immediate policy attention and intervention to subdue the water crises before the crisis further aggravate.

In Manipur, in summer water shortage is acute and common as the river, spring, pond or lake dries gradually and water course or level depletes. Water requirement and use is more in urban areas than in rural areas as the nature of urban water usage is more intense such as flushing of toilet, cleaning of vehicles, frequent washing of clothes and so on. Urban water problem is associated with poor urbanisation planning. Many areas particularly rural areas are not covered with the municipal treated water supply.

As per census 2011, about 25 percent of the households in the state use tap water from treated source as their main source of drinking water; and the remaining households use water from other untreated sources like tap, well, hand pump, tube well, borehole, spring, river, canal, tank, pond, lake and others. Only thirteen percent of the rural households, as against 51 percent of the urban households, main source of drinking water were treated tap water. Most of the households’ sources of drinking water are ad hoc and temporary arrangement. These waters are untreated and uncertain about its safety for drinking.

Water borne disease like stone case is prone in areas where untreated water is used. Rural people are more vulnerable from such water borne disease, due to drinking of untreated water, which is often neglected and ignored by the citizens and policy makers. The Telegraph in July 2011 published that the incidence of stone cases in Manipur is high and alarming as people failed to drink sufficient water. It further report that RIMS and JNIMS alone perform about eight stone cases surgeries daily.

That means close to three thousand stone surgeries are perform annually by RIMS and JNIMS alone. This signifies that one in every thousand people in Manipur undergo surgery to remove stone from their body. The figure would be more alarming when all other existing hospitals’ number of stone surgeries is considered. Its time to mull on weighing the combined medical cost and lost of economic values in terms of employment and output and the government spending in ensuring adequate water supply in the state. Government should cater efficient water supply in all areas to develop well being and economy.

Municipality water supply system is poor rendering many households and localities without water supply connection. Presently, instead of developing and constructing planned centralised drainage system the rivers in the valley are converted into centralised drainage system. By reverting these rivers to a proper source of dinking water would not only conserve environment but minimise the problem of water.

Poor governance coupled with inadequate planning for water supply is responsible for water scarcity that needs to be attended on priority basis. The evolvement of purified 20 litres commercial bottled water in recent time especially in the valley’s urban areas is a sign of scarcity of safe drinking water supply. Soon it would be a source of drinking water in other areas too particularly in urban centres. Rural areas are neglected the most in ensuring water supply. Rural people spend a considerable time and energy in fetching water from a distant place.

Government did not utterly neglect areas of water scarce and problematic. There are various provisions in the form of programmes and schemes but those are hardly implemented effectively because of the loopholes in the delivery and implementation system. Onus for water scarcity lies not only to the government agencies but also to the common responsible citizens. Water conservation education such as rain water harvesting method, with an infrastructural support and guidance of government, needs to be educated to the public and be practiced.

Access to safe drinking water is the right of the people irrespective of hills or valley or rural or urban. Delivery of safe water supply is state’s responsibility. Policy makers and planners need to swiftly and persistently intervene in tapping rain water resources, water recharging in soil, separating natural water resources channels or rivers with sewage or drainage system, improving water treatment system, avoiding water wastage due to leakages in supply, and in maintaining efficient distribution system.

* Marchang Reimeingam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on April 01, 2015.

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