The main reservoir of the scheme. Picture by UB Photos
Jorhat, Aug. 12: The Rs 100-crore rural drinking water project, the largest in Asia, at Titabar subdivision here has run into rough weather.
Many villagers have alleged that they are not benefiting from the project, which provides arsenic-free drinking water.
The public health and engineering department has denied these allegations in a statement and blamed those running the schemes of negligence and the village committees of not doing their duty.
The Greater Titabar Water Supply Scheme, which draws water from the Dhansiri to the greater Titabar areain Golaghat district, was inaugurated by chief minister Tarun Gogoi on May 28 this year.
In Kamarbhetti village, Guti Bhuyan told this correspondent that the pipe had broken down within 15 days of the start of the project.
S. Dutta, a resident of Titabar, said in many places the pressure and flow was so low that water could be obtained only at the ground level. As a result, people had to dig underground and place their buckets underneath the pipe in order to draw water.
If the pipe is lifted a bit then there is no pressure and the tap runs dry, he said.
Bijit Dutta, assistant executive engineer, PHE, said the department had received complaints of low pressure and dry taps.
In many instances, those who run the schemes at the nodal points, open up the valves installed by us fully in order to fill up their tanks within an hour or two so that they can leave the post and get on with other business, he said.
Dutta said the water flow was controlled by the valve, which had been fixed so that other schemes got equal pressure. But once one valve was opened, the others in line beyond did not get proper pressure and the flow decreased.
In order to prevent such misuse, the department was now installing a plate with a small fixed hole in the pipes through which the water flowed so that the valves even if they were opened fully would not allow all the water to gush into one scheme.
These plates had now been installed in 20 per cent of the schemes.
Dutta added that electricity was a big problem as the schemes ran on three-phase electrical connections.
A high-powered inverter had also been installed so that lack of electricity would not affect the functioning of the miniature circuit breaker, which automatically controlled the flow into the nodal tanks and maintained pressure.
But on a few occasions it was seen that the person who was in charge of operating a nodal scheme disconnected the inverter and connected it to his house, thus hampering the function of the switches.
Dutta said a farmer had once bored a hole into the main pipeline to water his field.
We have conducted massive awareness programmes and distributed leaflets each time but it was of no use. The villagers are under the impression that they should get water free of cost. Those who are above the poverty line should pay a fee of Rs 600 and for the connection, Rs 300, and a monthly rental advance of Rs 100, amounting to Rs 1,000 and pay monthly rental of Rs 100 within the first week. This money would go into maintenance of the scheme and in paying the person operating it, he said.
The gram sabha committees constituted to bring in consumers and take care of the scheme have however, not been able to convince the villagers to pay and they are under the impression that the department will pocket the money, he added.
Dutta, however, said they were working on the six schemes where pressure was said to be low.