Imphal Review of Arts and Politics

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Dept of Environment and Climate Change
Water hose from tube well which leads to an artificial reservoir (left) and (right) the author with a villager at the old steel water reservoir shared by Sambei and Chingkhu villages.

Increasing Groundwater Availability Will Ensure Long-Term Sustainability of Water Supply for Current and Future Generations

Since ancient times natural sources such as rivers, lakes, springs, ponds, streams etc. were the main sources of water for human and animals. These natural water sources have historically provided water for drinking, irrigation and other daily needs for the people of Manipur too. Traditional water management systems, such as community ponds and reservoirs, were also common to collect and distribute water within communities. Additionally, rainwater harvesting has been practices to supplement water supplies during the monsoon season as they have sufficient ponds in their own places. There has been an indication for decline in using river or pond water in Manipur. Water pollution, health concerns, climate change, changing rainfall patterns, infrastructure development, accessibility, cultural and societal changes are some of the contributing factors to the decline of using river or pond water as the primary sources of water in Manipur. There has been a shift towards using tap water and packaged water.

But in some places, especially in rural areas and some regions where surface water is scarce or unreliable, tube water is used as a main source of water. Tube wells provide a consistent and reliable supply of groundwater for various purposes, including drinking, irrigation and other uses. Tube wells have been introduced in Manipur over the years to address water supply challenges and provide access to clean water for the local population. Several water supply schemes utilize tube well water to provide clean and accessible water to communities. These schemes typically involve drilling tube wells to access groundwater, followed by installation of pumps and distribution infrastructure to deliver the water to households and other users. Sambei, Chingkhu, Haraorou, Tangkham, Sarouthel, Morok Ingkhol, Awang Ngairangbam, Yumnan Khunou, Sinam Khul, Wairi etc. are some of the villages in Imphal East District having tube well water supply scheme. Before that the people of these villages used water from local ponds and streams for drinking and household purposes.  Now the villages have been provided drinking water facility to every household by connecting functional household tap connection under Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) of Government of Manipur. The local communities are playing active role in successfully implementing and providing tap water supply with the formation of Village Water and Sanitation Committee (VWSC) in each village.

As claimed by the villagers of Sambei that with the support of UNICEF for tube well installation, a tube well was bored and installed for the first time in Sambei village, adjoining Chingkhu village in Manipur around 30 years back. After that it was gradually introduced as main source of tap water supply to the villagers. On interacting with Secretary of Village Water and Santitation Committee, Sambei in Imphal East district, Sanjenbam Sonamani Singh expressed that Augmentation of Sambei Water Supply Scheme provides drinking water to 170 households of Sambei village. Two hundred fifty to three hundred litre of water is supplied to each household daily. The village is divided into three sections for supplying water. A particular section is delivered water for one hour by the VWSC. The committee collects Rs 150 per household per month as bill for the water supply. The committee has two runners who is taking care of all the activities related with the water supply. The Committee is overall responsible for all the maintenances, sustainability, coordination with the concerned department, fund raising and making people aware of the scheme.

He added that it takes whole four days to fill up the 1.40 lakh litres water reservoir. But now it takes more time to fill up the water as there is less underground water and sometimes it cannot provide water with the targeted amount of water to the household. With the frequent load shedding in the state, the committee faces many difficulties in delivering the water. He also said that the village committee keep restriction on cutting down of trees and create awareness to the villagers to plant more trees. The Committee is planning to dig a big pond near the over-head water reservoir to harvest rain water which will help in managing the water supply. With the drying up of upstream of Kongba River in and around Sambei village and decreasing numbers of ponds in the village, the tube well water supply remains only source of water for the village. As life is not possible without forest, he appeals the people to stop cutting trees, and preserve the forest for our future.

Heikrujam Chaobi Devi, 50 yrs, of Sambei village of Imphal East district expressed that some years back she used to be in the queue for one hour to get water from the public hydel at the road side. As people were on queue, she could get only some buckets of water. It was very heavy for her to carry 15 litres water container from the water supply point to her house. Sometimes when she was preoccupied with some other works, she missed it. At that period of time there was no facility of buying water from private water tankers. From the last 5 to 6 years, her family has water connection to their house which saves their valuable time and energy.  She also expressed her happiness that once her dream comes into reality with water supply at her doorstep.

Talking to IRAP with another neighboring village, General Secretary of Village Water and Sanitation Committee of Haraorou, Nongthombam Phulindro expressed that the water reservoir of 1.6 lakh litres is situated at Kalen Chingjin. It delivered water to 346 households supplying each household 300litres each. The water supply was for 24X7. But from the last three-four years it cannot deliver as before due to changing patterns of rainfall and other petty issues. He claimed that the villagers will be getting ground water for more than twenty years if there is less rainfall also.  The villagers had already planted thousands of trees in the nearby hills before setting up of tube well water supply scheme. He further claimed that there is abundant of groundwater stock in his village. The village authority has many prohibitory rules of cutting trees from the forest area which help in preserving ground water.

A woman from Haraorou village narrated that before the connection of household tap water supply it took several hours to get water. She used to be in queue and travel around 3km to get tap water from the public hydel. Now, she does feel any panic that she will miss the tap water as it is now connected to her own house. She appeals to use water judiciously and plant more trees.

Monitoring groundwater level is essential to avoid over extraction and depletion of the aquifer. Regular testing and proper maintenance of tube well are also crucial to ensure the safety and reliability of the water supply. The role of the village authority in the maintenance of water supply is encouraging and significant. This type of model is started implementing at many villages of Manipur. This will help in achieving Government’s target of providing clean and safe drinking water to every household in the country. To make increase the availability of groundwater, it requires combination of conservation of water, preserving natural areas such as forests, weltands and grasslands that contributes to groundwater recharge by capturing and filtering rainwater, minimizing pollution of surface and groundwater, educating and more involvement of local communities in groundwater management efforts and invest in research and technology development to improve groundwater dynamics by developing innovative solutions for groundwater management. It is possible to increase groundwater availability and ensure its long-term sustainability for current and future generations.

(This 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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