Chief Engineer Jal Shakti says ‘they feed from public posts’
Srinagar: Despite boasting of nearly 80 ‘operational’ water supply schemes, 66 percent of households in central Kashmir’s Budgam district are still awaiting potable water connections, according to official data.
The district is divided into two Public Health Engineering divisions of Budgam and Chadoora, each spread over three sub-divisions – of Budgam, Khan Sahib and Beerwah in Budgam division, and Chadoora, Lal Nagar and Chrar-i-Sharif in Chadoora division.
As per the 2011 census, Budgam had a population of around 9 lakh distributed among roughly 1,21,000 households.
While the population of the district is believed to have risen by several thousands in the nine years since the census, only 40,986 of the 1,21,000 households have been provided potable water connections as on date, official data accessed by Kashmir Reader has revealed.
As per the data, a meagre 16,605 of the 65,000 households accounting for just 25 percent have been provided potable water in PHE Division Budgam. They comprise 7,313 households in Budgam sub-division and 4,608 and 4,684 in Beerwah and Khansahib sub-divisions, respectively.
In Chadoora PHE Division, the percentage of connections to households is relatively better, but still, only 24,381 of the 55,766 households have been connected.
The data reveals that in Chadoora sub-division of PHE Division Chadoora, only 7,360 of the total 24,124 households have been connected so far.
Likewise, in Chrar-i-Sharif and Lal Nagar sub-divisions, 3,882 and 13,139 households of the total 5,837 and 25,805 households, respectively, have been provided potable water connections as on date.
Chief Engineer Kashmir for the Jal Shakti department (formerly Public Health Engineering department), Iftikhar Ahmad Wani told Kashmir Reader that the 66 percent unconnected households had not been deprived from drinking water “but feed from public posts”.
But officials in the department said that the higher-ups had not done enough to ensure coverage of the population in terms of providing them safe drinking water, even though as many as 79 water supply schemes were operational in PHE division Budgam alone.
The failure of the department to provide consumers Front Household Tap Connections (FHTC) is not only leaving consumers at a health predicament, it is also hurting the department in terms of revenue collection.
Official data accessed by Kashmir Reader shows that in PHE Division Budgam alone, a target of Rs 3,73,000 was set last year but the department could only realise Rs 1,43,79,641 from the consumers, causing a revenue loss of more than fifty percent.
Officials in the department attributed the below-par revenue collection to the department’s failure to provide potable water to the consumers, which had dissuaded them from turning up for entering into agreements with the department.
“Why would a consumer pay for drinking from an open stream?” an official at Jal Shakti posted in the district quipped.
The department is now banking on the government of India’s ‘Jal Shakti Mission’, which aims for absolute coverage in potable water connections.
Chief Engineer Iftikhar Wani said that they had set a target of June 2022 for providing potable water connections to all the households in Budgam district. He said that they will make efforts to achieve the target well before the deadline.
Wani informed that proposals worth Rs 7 crore were being submitted for the second phase of the projects for absolute coverage.