From our Special Correspondent
SILCHAR, August 3: Though there has been significant increase in facilities for providing drinking water to more and more habitations during the period 2005 - 2010 by the two divisions of public health engineering department in Cachar district, the question about the quality of water has been raised in competent civil circles. According to official records, by March 2005, of the 2690 target habitations, 890 were fully covered, 970 partially covered and 830 were not covered. In between 2005 and 2010, of the target habitations, 1963 were fully covered, 316 partially and 411 remained uncovered. It does show significant coverage, but the question of quality has come to the fore.
The quality of water provided to the fully covered habitations, it has been revealed in a report, was not however tested at regular intervals and the department also did not fix any norm for periodical testing. Out of 6281 samples tested by the two divisions through two water testing laboratories in the districts, 280 samples were found contaminated with arsenic. In fact, arsenic content in water, particularly in certain rural belts, has been the cause of serious concern. Though the divisions took corrective and remedial measures to provide safe drinking water in the affected areas through 88 piped water supply scheme, two habitations with a population of 1651 were not covered.
Contaminated or arsenic mixed water is the cause of many contagious diseases. WHO (World Health Organisation) has expressed its concern at the rising level of contamination of underground water in many countries including India across the globe. The information furnished by the Joint Director of Health Service of Cachar shows 1035 cases of water born diseases. These included 512 cases of diarrhoea and 523 cases of gastroenteritis during 2005 – 10, indicating the level of unsafe drinking water.
The report conducted by a Central Government agency has pointed out that without ensuring quality, more and more coverage of habitations loses its significance. It has laid stress on conducting necessary water sample tests at regular intervals. It has also recommended that the State Government and the district administration need to prepare a strategic action plan to provide drinking water to the areas still not covered in a time bound manner. Besides, water quality testing system should be improved and upgraded to ensure supply of safe drinking water to people. This is essential since rural people in the absence of safe drinking water through piped system depend upon river as well as ponds or other natural sources which are found to be highly polluted due to human pressure and other factors.
The report of the Central Government agency has found deficiencies with the two other important segments of civic life-sanitation and sewerage. According to total sanitation campaign, all schools in Cachar were to be covered by 2008. But, the division targeted 1839 schools out of 2438 and could cover 1869 schools by 2009. Further, only 51 per cent Anganwadi toilets were constructed by 2010.
Quite distressing as noted by the report is that no sewerage facilities were available in the town of Silchar and the sub-divisional town of Lakhipur. The department concerned also did not have any plan for construction of sewerage plants. It was recommended by the GOI agency for taking steps to ensure sewerage facility in both the towns, keeping in view the upgradation of civic services for which the citizens have to cough up high taxes.