Departmental works lagging woefully behind for safe drinking water supply, removal of arsenic & fluoride contamination and toilet construction
BY OUR STAFF REPORTER
GUWAHATI, March 20: The Public Health Engineering (PHE) department plays a crucial role in survey, investigation, preparation and execution of water supply schemes for towns and villages, and also execution of rural sanitation schemes. But the department is still lagging behind in fulfilling its objectives due to fund crunch and callousness of a section of its officials.
The targets set up by the PHE department in water and sanitation sectors to be achieved before the end of the current fiscal (2016-17) now seem an impossible task with only a few days left for this financial year to end.
There has been little change in the poor work culture of the PHE department despite the BJP-led coalition taking charge at Dispur. Most of the targets set by the department are yet to be fulfilled due to sluggish pace of work.
According to a latest government report, the PHE department set a target to provide safe drinking water to 1,752 habitations across the State in the current fiscal, but only 188 habitations were covered up to last part of December 2016. The department has fixed a target to cover 897 habitations in the present fiscal, which have been facing water quality related problems for long, but it has managed to cover only 70 habitations up to December last.
Assam has several habitations affected by arsenic and fluoride contamination in groundwater. The PHE department set up a target to provide pure drinking water to at least 22 such fluoride-affected habitations in the current fiscal, but not a single habitation has been covered so far. Similarly, the department has only provided safe drinking water to students in 98 schools instead of its target for 272 schools up to December last. The records state that 1,561 habitations were supposed to be covered by PHE department with its piped water supply scheme (PWSS), but only 140 habitations were covered with the scheme till December 2016.
The performance of the PHE department has so far been very poor in the sanitation sector, despite the Central government’s Clean India Mission. After fixing a target to construct 8.5 lakh individual household latrines and 192 community sanitary complexes across the State in the current fiscal, the department has constructed only 5.6 lakh individual household latrines and 49 community sanitary complexes till date.
The work culture of the PHE department was at its nadir during the erstwhile Congress government in the State, but even now it is yet to reform its ways. The time has come for present PHE Minister Rihon Daimary to rectify it and raise the department’s work culture to a new level so that visible changes can be reflected on the ground.