The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Murky stream of potable water

Darjeeling, April 11: Lal Dhiki dhara might easily pass off for a murky drain, but it is the only source of drinking water for some residents of the hill town.

With garbage from the nearby sewer flowing in and discarded shoes, plastic bottles and a thick layer of dirty froth floating on the stream, the water can hardly be considered potable, but 20 settlements around Motor Stand here have little alternative left to them. With the water-crisis in the area rising by the day, the people here have to make do with whatever water they get, potable or not, a resident said.

It comes as a surprise that no water-borne disease has been reported from the area so far.

Some residents have even alleged that debris and sewage from a nearby construction site has been seeping into the stream, contaminating the water further.

The pungent-smelling water is not only used by those residing in the area, it is also supplied to local restaurants and hotels. The water-scarcity is so acute that a 15-l jar of the Lal Dhiki water is sold for Rs 10. 'We have little choice but to have it,' said Binod Tamang, a resident of the area. 'We first filter the water and than boil it before drinking.'

The restaurant-owners, however, denied that they used the water for consumption and maintained that it was used only for sweeping floors and other cleaning purposes.

B.M. Limboo, the vice-chairman of the Darjeeling municipality said the civic board has been told about the situation. 'Anjuman-Islamia, the contractors of a construction project nearby, have not set up a proper sewerage system. We have asked them to do the needful as early as possible so that the water of the stream is not affected further,' he said.

According to him, the civic body has even put up a barricade around the water source to ensure that no sewage contaminates the stream.

At present, the Darjeeling municipality is distributing water to the 32 wards of the town with the help of 20 trucks and eight jongas. 'We are trying our best to see to it that all residents of the town get potable water and it is being distributed to every ward once in two or three days,' Limboo said.

The civic body has also admitted that given the sparse rainfall this year, the water crisis might get worse in the coming days.

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