Jeeps line up to collect water near a stream in Kalimpong on Monday. Picture by Chinlop Fudong Lepcha
Kalimpong, March 16: A fault in a pipeline has hit the water supply to Kalimpong, which is already reeling from acute water scarcity this summer.
In the past few days, the people had been provided with water only once in three days as the reservoirs are not getting enough water from the Neora Water Supply Scheme (NWSS).
In normal times, the PHE (water works department) pumps water from its reservoirs for 30 to 45 minutes on alternate days. “The Neora authorities have sought a week’s time to rectify a fault in a pipeline. Once we start receiving water in the required volume, the normal supply to the households will be restored,” said Rajen Pradhan, the superintendent of water works.
The severe dry spell that the entire north Bengal is experiencing has resulted in the drying up of water sources like springs and ponds in the hills. The flood meteorology office in Jalpaiguri said the region received no showers in January and February whereas rainfall recorded during the same period last year was 160mm.
When it rains during the winter, the water level of springs goes up. Since there was no rain this time, these sources have started drying up. “For the first time in my memory, the spring near our home is running dry fast,” said P. Chhetri, an 84-year-old retired schoolteacher and a resident of 9th Mile. The Chhetris have been living in the area since the 1920s.
Chhetri fears that she will have to buy water from the market this time. There are many people who have already started buying water.
“I have been buying water at Rs 170 per 1000 litres for the past few weeks,” said Nilesh Kharga, a resident of B.L. Dixit Road. The rural belt in the subdivision, too, has been severely affected by the dry spell.
Sectors like agriculture and horticulture are likely to suffer a major hit. Farmers are not able to cultivate summer rice and maize as their fields have cracked up.
Miku Foning, the president of Kalimpong Horticulture Society, said the situation was quite bad, especially in areas with limited water sources.
“Some of our members are being forced to buy water to irrigate their nurseries. The subdivision normally receives two or three showers in January and February, which are a big boon to horticulture and agriculture. The production of gladioli will be affected adversely, more so because it is a field crop,” he added.