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Means to Tackle Growing Menace of Water Crisis in Guwahati



Dhirendra Newar

The writer can be reached at [email protected]

Had the water bodies been properly utilized by the authorities, these could have become sources of not only good water supply but also a house of good eco-system and bio-diversity, a natural cooler from summer heat, and most importantly a natural storehouse for excess water of monsoon rainfall…

I have been residing in Guwahati for the last two years. When I came here the burning problem that I faced was that of availability of pure drinking water or clean water for that purpose. For the first few weeks, I had been searching for a rent room and from everyone I heard the common thing i.e., complaint about water. And this was common and still prevalent in areas like Zoo Tiniali, Chandmari, Shilpukhuri, Ganeshguri, and Ulubari among others. Ironically these are the places with several educational institutions nearby and naturally it is the student community who has to suffer the most. Even after paying hefty room rents, students find it difficult to get pure and clean water supply.

I originally belong to upper Assam region. There I had not seen water crisis in such serious and rampant conditions. Therefore, it was one of my very first shocking experiences after I shifted to Guwahati. Apart from room rents, electricity bills, grocery expenses and other daily expenses, we have to pay separately for water also which is rather astonishing.

But the worst part here is that even after paying for water supply, there is nothing called ‘pure drinking water’. On a closer look, we can notice dust, mud and at times even some mini living creatures in the supplied water. When I complained to the water suppliers about it, they all had the same reply that one can’t get cleaner water than that and that they supply the same water to every household. This made me more anxious thinking as to why no one complains and moreover whether no one gets ill after drinking such water?

Ironically, this abnormal situation is in every possible way a man-made disaster, or at least soon to be a disaster. I have witnessed two monsoon seasons in Guwahati since I shifted here. Mother Nature is fully supportive, given the fact that Guwahati receives abundant rainfall in monsoon seasons. It even receives heavy downpour during the retreating monsoon seasons. Alas! No water is preserved or harvested here, either through the initiatives of government or by individual efforts. Due to the lack of rainwater harvesting, not a single drop of rain water can be preserved and utilized. Otherwise rain water has the potential of providing pure and clean water supply to every household in Guwahati city. This becomes more relevant during the winter seasons when there is less rainfall. This summarizes the fact that water crisis in Guwahati is fully man-made or at least a human aggravated one.

This aspect also has side effects. Due to the non-utilisation of rainwater, excess water runs off in the streets of Guwahati, causing artificial or flash floods and wreaking havoc in the life of Guwahatians. On the other hand, the authority concerned also limits its responsibility to “dredging” of the drainages before the onset of monsoon. However, this has proved to be neither adequate nor effective. What is more, owing to the growing levels of urbanization leading to concretization of the entire Guwahati city, scant attention to durable planning of basic urbanization processes like the drainage system and the waste management system among other nagging issues, water can’t percolate into earth resulting in the problem of artificial floods getting more aggravated and worsening.

The growing crisis of clean water availability despite Guwahati city getting abundant monsoon water on the other hand is something unpalatable for any responsible citizen. This is purely a preventable artificial Water Crisis due to the non-utilisation of resources, both at the government level and also due to the lack of individual efforts. Given the fact that the mighty Brahmaputra has touched Guwahati from East to West adds more fuel to my astonishment. With huge volume of water being carried by the Brahmaputra, one can’t imagine why and how people in and around its banks face acute water shortage? If we have not found out any solution or technology for the best utilisation of this huge water resource, is it not a failure on our part? Availability of the high-speed water current of the Brahmaputra River should have been the one-stop solution for regular electricity supply for the whole of Assam. However inability to utilize these resources should have put the government and authorities under question.

Guwahati city itself has several water-bodies as well as wetlands. These are water fed by the Brahmaputra itself. These water bodies could have been natural water suppliers. Instead, these water bodies have become a dumping ground for wastes and a natural storehouse for solid as well as liquid wastes of the whole of Guwahati city. For example, the water canal running through the Zoo Road in the Jonali area, the wetlands in the Paltan Bazaar area and other places have become dumping places for city wastes. Had these water bodies been properly utilized by the authorities, these could have become sources of not only good water supply but also a house of good eco-system and bio-diversity, a natural cooler from summer heat, and most importantly a natural storehouse for excess water of monsoon rainfall.

We all know that blaming the government is not the only solution. This requires involvement from authorities concerned; but at the same time individual efforts and community support must be forthcoming. If it could be made mandatory to have proper rainwater harvesting system in every blooming apartment in Guwahati city, then a major problem could have been tackled. Even if it is not made mandatory, every housing society and management should make a provision for the same. Individually also each one of us can co-operate by lending our hands in tackling this issue by way of harvesting rainwater in every household and storing it for future utilisation. This would certainly reduce our dependence on outside water suppliers. At the same time we should be constantly aware that only the required amount of water is used for any household activity and wastage of water must be discouraged.

Government has tried to propagate the message of proper utilisation of water through various mediums like television, social media, and print media. As responsible citizens, we need to do our bit, instead of relying on government to do miracles for us. Also it is not possible for every authority and law-enforcement agency to look into the matters of every household affair. It is our duty to be responsive and adaptive to the changing global and at the same time every household’s daily crisis.

 Also Read: Drinking Water Crisis: Water Pipes Damaged Beyond Repair