|Workers repair Richi Road that was damaged recently because of heavy rain; and (above) a girl carries water collected from a spring (not seen in picture) in Bagdhara on Monday. Pictures by Chinlop Fudong Lepcha
Kalimpong, July 25: Electricity is not a problem yet but the other two aam admi concerns of pani and sadak are beginning to tell on the people of Kalimpong as the rains have wreaked havoc on the water supply infrastructure and the roads midway through monsoon.
Residents of Kalimpong have not received water for two days from July 22 after landslides at Algarah (16km from here) damaged pipes supplying water to a reservoir at Deolo few days ago.
Water from the tank is distributed to around 7,000 households of the hill town on every alternate days.
It is expected that the public health engineering (PHE) department, which distributes water, would be able to restore the supply lines from tomorrow.
“We have enough water in the Deolo reservoir today and we should be able to supply water tomorrow,” said Rajen Pradhan, the PHE superintendent.
Pradhan said the daily requirement of the town is 7.3 lakh gallons.
Till yesterday afternoon, the Deolo reservoir had about 3 lakh gallons of water, which had been kept as a buffer to meet emergencies like fire.
“We were able to replenish water from Thukchuk and the Neora river. If there is no further damage to our pipelines, then we will be able to supply water to the residents on alternate days as usual,” he said.
Residents of the hill town get water from the department for half an hour every alternate days.
But the officials fear that if there is more rain, causing landslides on the 6-km stretch from Algarah to the 4th Mile, then it could again result in the pipelines getting damaged.
Praful Rao, the president of Save The Hills, an NGO working on landslide issues, said an alternative arrangement to supply water to the residents of the hill town is needed. “The rainy season will continue for another month and half. The usual non-stop rain lasting for two-three days has not yet occurred this year. You can well imagine what could happen if we were to get that kind of rain,” he said.
It was not possible to ascertain if the Kalimpong municipality had an alternative arrangement in place to meet a possible crisis of potable water. L. N. Sherpa, the subdivisional officer of Kalimpong and acting administrator of the municipality, did not take calls from The Telegraph.
In the absence of water supply for two days, most residents arranged for drinking water from the natural springs in the neighbourhood.
The others bought it from the market.
“I had tapped rainwater for washing purposes and, for drinking, I brought 1,000 litres of water from the market,” said Nilesh Khadka, a resident of B.L. Dixit Road in Kalimpong.
The price of 1,000 litre water delivered at home is anything between Rs 200 and Rs 300, depending on the distance of the house from the town.
The PHE superintendent said he was keeping the SDO updated on the water situation.
The mudslides have also affected the traffic movement on NH31A, the main road link to Siliguri. The highway has been blocked by slush and debris for hours several times in the past few months resulting in traffic jam and increased travel time.
“Landslides have turned the highway into a hell. Safety apart, the inordinate delay we have to encounter on the highway is not only inconveniencing but is also hurting us economically. If I have a day’s work in Siliguri today I will either have to go there a day in advance or I will have to stay back over night,” said Robin Lama, a businessman from Kalimpong.
Usually it takes about two hours to reach Siliguri from here, a distance of 65km, through the highway.
But because of regular traffic jams, especially on stretches affected by landslides, sometimes it takes double the time or even more to cover the distance.
Residents of the town submitted a letter to the Darjeeling district magistrate, Mohan Gandhi, last week drawing his attention to the bad condition of NH31A.
A source in the Border Roads Organisation, which maintains the highway, said they were doing their best to ensure an uninterrupted flow of traffic on the highway.