Imphal Review of Arts and Politics

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Fetching water by digging holes on teh bed of a dried up pond at Kasomtang in Ukhrul

Addressing Water Scarcity by Cooperation Can Foster Peace and Harmony Among Communities

Water scarcity is a pressing global challenge, exacerbated by climate change, population growth and unsustainable water use practices. Competition over dwindling water resources often leads to tensions and conflicts, both within and between nations. Scare water sources can exacerbate existing social, economic and political grievances, sparking violence and instability. More than 3 billion people worldwide depend on water that crosses national borders. Yet out of 153 countries that share rivers, lakes and aquifers with their neighbours, only 24 countries report having cooperation agreements for all their shared water. Some of the examples are disputes over transboundary rivers like the Nile and the Indus to conflicts driven by water stress in regions like the middle East and North Africa, the longstanding Cauvery water dispute between Indian states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over the sharing of water from the Cauvery river, the International dispute over Indus water between India and Pakistan in 1948 and many more.

Recently in Manipur there was media report of oil spilling incidence from Leimakhong Heavy Fuel Power Project into the river in Imphal West and floating of black substance in the Iril River at Dolaithabi Dam in Imphal East. People considered these as a threat to water considering the prevailing situation of the state.

Researchers suggest that 2.3 billion people currently live in water-stressed countries, of which 733 million live in countries experiencing high and critical water stress. By 2050, 3.9 billion people (40 percent of the world’s population) will live in river basins that experience severe water stress. Focusing on the critical role water plays in the stability and prosperity of the world, World water day 2023 was observed on the theme-water for peace on March 22. Water for peace is a concept that emphasizes the role of water as a potential catalyst for peacebuilding and conflict resolution.

On interacting with some women from different localities regarding issues or problems related with water, they narrated their own difficulties of getting pure and safe water in different ways. One Baseimayum Shamshad (30 years) from Lilong Houreibi Makha Leikai in Thoubal district expressed that because of using polluted water from the pond her family members have skin diseases. Many persons of her locality have skin diseases and other water borne diseases. Women suffered more to get water either to fetch water from the river or pond. Because of polluted water, they cannot maintain proper hygiene. For drinking purposes, they buy from the private tankers. During rainy seasons they could harvest water from rain. During the dry season if someone has to pump up water from the river, they have to pay Rs 400 per hour for hiring the generator. They need to keep extra monthly budget for each month to get clean water. It is very hard to spare time for getting water out of her busy schedule. She wants the government to provide drinkable tap water supply to every household so that it will ease the burden of many people particularly the women.

A lady from Uyumpok Maning Leikai in Imphal East district asserted that there is no tap water supply in her locality as of now. For all the daily uses, her family use water from the pond. For drinking purpose, they used to buy from private tankers which create more expenses. She also expressed that there are many people in her locality who use water from ponds and river for all purposes which includes drinking. She also lamented that even though water is life, they are living a life without pure and save water. She also expresses her desire to set up a Village Water Sanitation Committee or tap water supply in her village so that they can avail tap water at the doorstep.

Maibam Priya Devi of Naharup Mayai Leikai in Imphal East district narrated that her family invest extra budget in buying water in addition to the water bill paid to the government’s department concerned. As her family is a joint family, the quantity of water received from the supplied tap water is not sufficient for the whole family. She appeals the authority concerned to increase the frequency and duration of water supply so that no extra money is invested on buying water.

Another Sarangthem Mala Devi (56yrs), a resident of Thambalkhong Lisham Leirak in Imphal East district conveyed that for last 20 years her family has been using water from the local community pond. She fetches water for 3 or 4 times from the pond using 20 litres capacity jar every day. With the prolonged drawing of water from the pond and carrying it, she suffers from orthopedic illness. She feels so disappointed for the unequal accessible facilities of clean water supplyin the state as some villages, town and other places have the facilities of accessing clean water at their doorsteps and on the other hand, many peopleare not able to assess tap water in their life.

Talking to IRAP in this regard, Dr Likmabam Sanjoy, Department of Environmental Science of Dhanamanjuri University expressed thatthere is a need for water audit for every family to access the daily water requirement of the family according to the numbers of family and to find out the strategy to get maximum water to fulfill the needs. In Manipur eight months are dry season whereas four months are rainy seasons. Particularly, during these four months, rain water need to be harvest at the maximum level according to the amount of water that will be require in the dryeight months. As all the water bodies are dying day by day, rain water is the only source of water that needs to be preserved.

He added the changing life style have made more consumption of water as compare with the traditional life. If every house, institute, office and other infrastructures have rain water harvesting facilities, it will help in solving water scarcity problem during the dry seasons. Regarding community pond, Dr Sanjoy opined that there is a need to set up community pond in each constituent segment of the state according to the population. This will help in preserving rain water for future use.

There many more Shamshad, Priya and Mala in the state who face problems in getting clean water. Once the water supply facilities are made accessible to every household in equal quantity, it will help in reducing the burden of people and help in maintaining hygiene. At the same it is high time to conserve and preserve water bodies which are the main sources of water supply. Addressing water scarcity requires a multifaceted approach. Some solutions include implementing water conservation measures, investing in water infrastructure and technology, promoting rainwater harvesting and raising awareness about the importance of water conservation among individuals and communities. Additionally, policies to regulate water usage and prevent pollution are also equally important.

(The article is filed under the 4th State Level Media Fellowship Programme on Climate Change under the sponsorship of the Directorate of Environment and Climate Change, Government of Manipur.)

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