Friday, January 5, 2007

W for War; W for Water

The Chief Minister Mr. Gegong Apang, observed that the future war will be fought for water. I ponder hard over its possibility and I came to conclusion that it seems probable. I have a feel that this war will not be fought amongst nation, but amongst states and within state. The neighbour will turn against neighbour, the poor against rich and the plebian against government-in the name of water. Take Narmada and Cauvery river for instance, these two rivers are the source of disgruntlement in the western and southern India. In USA, the Hurricane Katrina, that claimed many lives in august 2005 and exposed the helplessness of over-confident super power America in dealing with the disaster, which goaded enormous resentment from public for government And the poll conducted by an Associated Press in early August shows that 67% of Americans disapproved of the way President Bush and his administration handled the Katrina affair. During December 2004 tsunami in which more than 200,000 lives were lost, there were stories that Tamils in Sri Lanka were meted out to biased relief work which could only foment ire and amplify the tension in ongoing struggle between LTTE and Sri Lankan government. In July17, eighteen months after the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami, more than 500 people killed when a giant wave struck the Indonesian island of Java. People were indignant at the failure of Indonesian leadership to set up a tsunami warning system. Besides, thousands of big and small mutinies from Rajkot in Gujarat to Sri Ganganagar in Rajasthan, were reported in the past in which farmers have died defending their first right over water. The abominable flood in Mumbai, Bihar and Assam-the list of woe caused by water is exhaustible. Because there were so many hubbub and commotion around water, therefore, I daresay, is a sign of prognosticated war.

And the government recent move to hike the water tariff in the state are viewed as an agent to cull money from public to cover up the mismanagement of fund. I had to agree as the hike in water tariff left me totally gobsmacked. The tariff is absolutely immoderate and to large extent, it could induce inflation. The restaurateurs will have no option but to increase the cost of its product. So are the barber and other entities. Considering the quality and quantity of water supplied by PHED (Public Health Engineering Department) in Ziro particularly-the tariff looks more like a legitimate extortion. I am not averse to tax or revenue collection as long as the capitals generated from payers is utilized to improve the infrastructure or development of infrastructure. But the stories tell us something else. Let me cite some of the several instances. For starters, it is deemed that the PHED supplies water for two hours, twice a day but we never get running water for more than ten minutes. Second, on a rainy day, the undrinkable water becomes more undrinkable as the mud with leeches and earthworms are sure to flow in with water. And sometimes, a grain of cooked rice too. On numerous occasions, I even found a wisp of human hair which seldom leads to misunderstanding and quarrel at home with the women folk for being careless in making their tresses. The PHED do not even bother to filter the water, let alone, the treatment of water. Sometimes, I fancy that the people of Ziro are dying all of a sudden as some miscreant had poured a bottle of poison in the water tank. And it’s frightening and feasible too.

The talk that new tank is being built in Ziro and going to operate it soon and the scarcity of water will no longer haunt the people of Ziro and so on-has almost become rhetoric. I wonder how long it will take to materialize. Even if the dream project realized at scheduled time, there’s a prospect we will be hit hard by the expenses again-the expense we bear or incur on procurement of pipe and appurtenances. Besides the expenditure, the road has to be dug to lay the pipe which means another bout with PWD officials. I cannot comprehend why the PHED would not install a pipe that carries water on both side of the road. And I’m not ready to subscribe to the notion that there is a shortage of pipes as I have often seen the Puja Pandal being built with water pipes. If PHED agrees to set water on both sides of the road, it would not only prevent the people from digging up the road which adds up to the numerous potholes that lay strewn in the road but an easy access to water connection also-thus, more revenue for the government.

In reference to the revenue; unlike our state, the metros like Delhi, with millions of population and scanty rainfall, are better equipped, if not best, to provide water to its residents. According to Delhi Jal Board revised water tariff, the DJB bills their consumers on the basis of actual consumption of water (read Volumetric Water Charges) with nominal access charge. And to calculate the consumption of water, the concerned authorities install a meter at every premises at the expense of consumer and the cost of meter is payable in four equated monthly installments. If paid in lump-sum, a rebate of 15% is offered to the consumer. Besides, the rates of the Volumetric Water Charges are quite affordable as compared with the water tariff in our state. For above 6 kl and upto 20 kl, the Board charges Rs.2/- per month under category I and consumption of water upto 25 kl is Rs. 10/- per month for category II. Whereas we are hardly able to collect 150-200 litres of water a day (i.e., 4.5 kl – 6 kl in a month) in our houses and we are paying Rs. 100/- for it. And it may seem a paltry sum for those who are working in a government department as they get their revised in every five years. But, it’s not for the plebeian who don’t have any resources to meet the expenses but share the burden anyway.

The government needs to bear the common and poor people in their mind before they formulate policy to generate public revenue. And if the government and bureaucrat at the top echelon cannot provide job and equal opportunity to all without any bias, then their expectation to generate fund from common people is absolutely invalid. And the threat of war will hover as long as the people are made to pay exorbitant price for basic and essential items. Until then, people’s effort is required to take a pre-emptive action to tap the rain water in order to shun war, save money and bureaucratic hassle.

-Contributed by Roto Chobin, Editor of the fortnightly ZIRO MIRROR, published from Ziro. He can be contacted at


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