SRINAGAR: Not much work has been done by a six-member government panel formed for solving the imminent drinking-water crisis in the Valley, more than a month after it was constituted.
The committee was formed on February 17 to examine the task of “re-establishing the pre-existing network of streams, wetlands lakes and river Jhelum.” It has since held only one meeting, and nothing substantial came out of it. Its next meeting is scheduled on March 25.
“We met for the first time a few days ago, but not much was discussed. We are going to meet on March 25 in which the issue will be discussed threadbare. What work has to be done will be fixed on that day,” one of the panel members told Kashmir Reader, on the condition of anonymity.
The members of the committee include Chief Conservator of Forests Kashmir, Vice-Chairman LAWDA (Lakes and Waterways Development Authority), Chief Engineer Irrigation & Flood Control Kashmir, Superintending Engineer UEED Kashmir, and Regional Wildlife Warden Kashmir.
Sources said that some of the members were absent in the first meeting of the panel.
The member who spoke to Kashmir Reader said that the Valley is facing drinking-water problems due to shrinking water bodies, less rainfall, and interrupted water connectivity. He said a study needs to be done to understand the current position of availability of water, which will pave the way for an action plan.
The availability of drinking water is already grim in the Valley. According to the 2011 Census, the only recent data available with the government, more than 17 percent of households drink untreated tap water, while a sizeable population has to rely on open water bodies. Of the total 20 lakh households in Kashmir, 23 percent of those in urban areas have to go out of their homes to fetch water. In rural areas, 65 percent have to do so.
Another issue, the panel member said, was the shortage of water supply in households that do have water reaching their homes. He said these households face shortage of water whenever there is a dry spell. Against an average rainfall of 198.2mm from December to February, the total rainfall received this year is 37mm. Also, the prolonged dry conditions last summer made the water level in Jhelum river plunge to a record low of 0.65mm in October.