| Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma speaks in the Assembly in Shillong on Tuesday. Picture by UB Photos |
Shillong, March 19: Several Meghalaya legislators today warned of serious ramifications if immediate steps were not taken to solve the water crisis in the state.
Initiating the discussion on the frequent water scarcity in Tura, Garo National Council (GNC) legislator, Clifford R. Marak, representing Chokpot constituency, threatened to launch his third hunger strike if the government failed to come up with an immediate solution to resolve the crisis. The veteran legislator had staged a 10-hour hunger strike twice in Tura when the town had no water supply last year.
“I have been on a hunger strike twice already. Shall I do it again, this time in front of the chief minister’s office? Only then will the public health engineering department wake up?” Marak asked.
Last year, Tura had reeled under a water crisis as the water pumps, which are used to propel water from the Ganol river, became non-functional.
Stating that water supply from the Ganol river was totally dependent on the availability of power, Marak suggested that the government should purchase generator sets to ensure that the water supply remained unaffected. People in Tura and the entire Garo Hills region have been facing power cuts in the recent past.
Taking part in the discussion, National People’s Party (NPP) legislator James P. K. Sangma stressed on the need to protect and preserve the catchment areas, which were slowly steadily drying up, and also put a check on the rampant deforestation. “We all understand that World War III will be fought over water and not over land. Already states and nations are fighting over river bodies,” Sangma said. He also asked the government to identify new catchment areas and strengthen quality control.
Independent legislator from South Tura constituency John Leslee K. Sangma said the water scarcity arose due to a failure in the water supply management. Ponting out that the supplied water was unfit even for bathing, he said, “Rich people can afford to purchase cartons of mineral water for drinking. But what about the common man?” He also warned that if these problems were not addressed, it would not be long before the people of Tura began to fight over water. “Maybe in the next 20 years, people will be fighting with guns for water. We deserve better. Our children also deserve better,” Sangma said.
Replying to this discussion, PHE department minister R.C. Laloo admitted that water scarcity in Tura has been a regular phenomenon in the recent past, especially during the lean period.
Stating that there already were three water supply schemes to provide water to the town – Tura Phase I, Tura Phase II and Tura Phase III – Laloo said the department had taken up the implementation of another gravity-fed scheme.
The gravity-fed scheme – augmentation of Tura Phases I and II – was sanctioned in October 2011 at a cost of Rs 50 crore under the 13th Finance Commission Award.
The source of the scheme is the Daribok stream, originating from the Nokrek National Park. The scheme is expected to be complete in 2014-15, he added.
The PHE department minister also said the drying up of the catchment areas was a great concern, and stressed on the need to make people aware about the negative ramifications of jhum cultivation and deforestation.
Chief minister Mukul Sangma said the water scarcity problem stood out as one of the biggest issues in Tura during the recent Assembly elections.