Yet again, amidst the global pandemic of Covid-19, the water problem in Imphal became the talk of the hour. The state was declared drought hit during August-September last year and it has hardly been 200 days after, the recurring problem of water scarcity resurfaced again in Imphal. Although drought was declared in 2009 and 2019 only during the last decade, the acute water shortage problem has been an annual phenomenon for our state.
Much came into limelight when people during the long lockdown are forced to buy water at Rs. 60 to 70 per jar. Even news of buying them at Rs. 100 was seen in social media. When both people and government are busy framing lockdown rules, monitoring Covid-19 by tracing, tracking and testing, quarantining, isolating and then treating; water scarcity problem has been sidelined. What need to be done at this juncture is to find an immediate solution. It is not easy but certainly can be done. The unsung humanity is providing the solution either as individuals -politician, philanthropists or groups-NGOs, clubs, institutions are distributing water to the needy masses.
As per research paper on the Journal of Rural Development (SS Hanjabam, 2018) the state government is able to provide only 70 million litres per day (MLD) against the required 101.9 MLD. This clearly suggests that another 30 MLD is to be provided via private agencies. The harse reality is that, these private agencies in most cases, receive their water from the government based reservoirs where they compromise public responsibility. Even worse case scenario happens during the momentous winter-dry months of March-April annually in which the water levels of Imphal, Iril, Nambul, Thoubal are far below useable level.
In the lights of these acute water scarcity issues during the dry seasons, a personal experience needs to be shared to all the readers. In one of the social media, a very concerned citizen came up “Why not our super scientist, engineers, etc from our state to fix this water problems once for all.... Its happening regularly for the last 10 yrs... Please don’t say we don’t receive enough rain water every year.” The guy rightly points out who should come forward to solve the problem. A systematic scientific remedy needs to formulate to cope up the issue. However, the water issue is still in the initial phase were a little seriousness by the state authority and effective implementation by the governmental mercenaries can nullify the problem almost by ~ 95% and the rest ~5% requires an out of the box work.
The author feels that this grim water issue can be solved at ease. Let us again feel few more instances. Where from the package water come from? Where does water jar get fill up? Are the water tankers not available at all? The answers clearly depict the solution. It means that enough water is still available. Only matters are money and a good distribution policy.
In the long run, however an ever lasting solution is a must. To find the long term solution, lets go through some of the facts and figures. As per 2011 Census, 268,243 is the population of Imphal city while its urban / metropolitan population is 418,739. Following the www.macrotrends.net the estimated population of Imphal in 2020 would be 576,000 assuming at a growth rate of 3.23% from 2019. This increase will certainly pose a grim future which at some point of time may even create an irreversible water crisis. Here few scientific interventions are necessary to procrastinate the water crisis.
The first and foremost step is to digest all the possible causes of water depletion and adopt all possible measures to minimize. To list a few - Over exploitation or excessive pumping to meet increasing water demand, excessive consumption, Urbanization and expansion of paved surface areas, minimizing traditional water conservation structures like ponds and tanks, non availability of other source of water for domestic uses, lack of awareness and insanitary disposal of waste to river and streams.
The second part is to identify possible study areas where to harvest and artificially recharge the water. The upstream basinal locations along the course of the major rivers will be the ideal locations to take up the projects. Awang Sekmai for Imphal River, Sawmbung-Lamlai for Iril River, Lamsang for Nambul River, Yairipok for Thoubal River, Pallel for Sekmai River, Saikot for Khuga River will be suitable locations where either proper harvest and artificial recharge can be initiated.
The actual scientific intervention norms are clearly outlined in Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) guidelines. These methods can broadly be classed into Direct & Indirect methods. Direct methods to be applied for surface include flooding, ditch and furrows, recharge basin, bench terracing, contour bunds and contour trenches, check dams, gully plugging, stream modifications, irrigation methods, etc. Amongst Sub-surface techniques, recharge wells, shafts and pits, etc may prove fruitful. Induced recharged and Aquifer modification can be done through Indirect methods. These methods need a proper survey of the water table, lithology, geological structures to adopt the most apt with least economic expense and minimum social issues. Fulfilling these steps will take around another five year.
So the need of the hour is to adopt rain water harvesting techniques at different levels i,e, from individual homes to government. Public awareness for the use of recycle water for different categorical uses, minimise water loss through distribution will be immensely helpful. Stringent implementation of water supply system of government machineries for PHED can also effectively rule out the present problem. Otherwise, the gloom day of “DAY ZERO” for the Cape Town and Johannesburg cities during 2018 may arise in the near future. Though the front line crusaders -doctors, nurses and police may prove combating the Covid-19, it is the people who should stay home and maintain social and physical distancing norms to defeat the global pandemic. Let the government do its policy and planning for minimising the crisis while all of us should contribute its own bit by changing the habit of bizarre water uses. Same applies for combating the water crisis. Like the saying “Make Hay while the Sun Shines”, act aptly.