Rusted, leaking pipes one reason, breach in Malshai Bagh canal another
Srinagar: A month has passed since the J&K administration renamed Public Health and Engineering department as Jal Shakti department, but clean water supply in many areas of Srinagar is still not coming.
People from several areas of Srinagar told Kashmir Reader that it has been eight months now that they are not receiving water fit enough to drink, even after filtering.
Showkat Ahmad, a resident of Amira Kadal, said that the water is not even fit enough to wash hands with. “The government says wash your hands frequently, each time for at least 20 seconds, and here we don’t have water even to drink or cook,” he said.
Firdous Ahmad, a resident of Aluchi Bagh, said that at a time when sanitation should be a national priority, with the prime minister himself campaigning for it, the authorities in Kashmir are showing no concern for even the lives of people.
An official in the Jal Shakti department, requesting anonymity, told Kashmir Reader that about 10 million gallons of drinking water is lost daily in Srinagar because some of the century-old rusting pipes are leaking both above and beneath the ground.
This is about 11 percent of the total 90 MGD (million gallons daily) water supplied to the city, he said.
The Public Health and Engineering department used to repair 25-40 km of worn-out or damaged pipelines every year. PHE employees would often stumble upon crumbling pipes choked with dirt and rust, which impede water supply to entire areas or reduce supply to tail-end users.
“Such pipes are often difficult to locate because they are buried deep in earth. We have hundreds of kilometres of such pipes laid about a century ago. A sizable length of the pipeline does not figure anywhere in our records, so it is a hassle for our employees to locate these pipes,” the official said, adding that residents move court if their houses are damaged in the process of locating a leaking pipe.
He said that during Maharaja Hari Singh’s rule, drinking water was supplied to each old-city mohalla through a Public Stand Post, which was like a community tap. Over the years, every home received its own supply line.
The official explained that most of these pipes are prone to wear and tear, what the department calls “system loss”. “Leaking pipes are a health hazard, especially if people use motors to suck water from such pipes because impurities are sucked in with more force,” he explained.
About Rs 90 crore are needed for revamping the supply pipes, he said. The department has sought financial assistance from the government and even approached the JK Economic Reconstruction Agency, but nothing has happened.
Money is also needed to pay allied civic departments for damage to their assets, mostly roads.
The areas facing water shortage include Soura, Anchar, Elahi Bagh, Mehmood Abad Buchpora, Gulab Bagh, Nowshara, Lal Bazaar, Habak, Zakura, Saderbal, Saida, Natipora, and many others.
Abdul Wahid, Chief Engineer at Jal Shakti department, maintained that there is enough water available for supply to all areas.
“At present we have supply from Rangil, Alastang, Nishat, Tangnar, Chadoora, Doodh Ganga, Sukhnag, Narbal water stations. The department has a capacity to supply everyday 135 liters per person. But we have observed that people have begun to use drinking water for gardening, washing vehicles, irrigation and agricultural activities,” he said.
“If people want an equitable and sustainable supply of water to all areas, they should stop misuse of water. If they can guarantee me this, I guarantee them uninterrupted water,” he added.
Wahid said that there is no water crisis in the city, excluding those areas which are connected with the Malshai Bagh (Ganderbal) canal. The canal, which supplies water to several water treatment plants, caters to more than two lakh people living on Srinagar outskirts. The water canal developed a breach on December 2 but the breach is yet to be fixed.
Wahid said that some workers of the department providing illegal water connections may be a reason for shortage of water. “I have given two days to all my ground-level workers to work on this issue and cancel all the illegal connections,” he said.
About the breach in the Malshai Bagh canal, Wahid said, “The main canal is under the I&FC department. Restoration work is in progress.”