Water Water Everywhere, But Not a Drop to Drink

source site Deghat (Almora): Located at the confluence of the Vinod and Mashangadi rivers is the township of Deghat. It is the last motor-head of Almora district and marks the Kumaon-Garhwal border with Pauri and Chamoli Garhwal on one side and Almora on the other.

Despite being traversed by two hill rivers throughout the year, drinking water ironically, is a huge problem in summers for the residents of Deghat. With a population of more than 2500 people, the township has no government supported water pipeline till date.

A community based pipeline that was laid nearly twenty years back, attempts to meet the water requirement of this increasingly expanding village.

“It is unfortunate to see a settlement which is fed with two perennial rivers, fight for water. What can be worse than seeing two rivers with crystal clear water flowing past the village throughout the year on one side and dry whistling taps on the other?” asks Jeewanti Rawat, a local resident.

It is interesting to note that 20 years back when the community pipeline was laid, it had a target to meet only eight public water stand posts. But with the exponential population explosion in the last decade water demand has attained unprecedented heights with around 170 connections and many more pending installations.

Deghat is the common market place for the entire Chaukot valley comprising more than 100 villages. The population pressure is immense with the increasing number of tenants.

During the N D Tiwari ruled government, the Chief Minister had declared that as a tribute to the sacrifice of Shri Hari Krishna and Shri Heramani who martyred in the brutal police firing in Deghat in 1942 during the Quit India Movement, Deghat would be made a Tehsil. But even after a decade of the announcement, prospects for the same remains elusive.

Ganga Ram, the caretaker of the pipeline says, “Most of the pipes are now in a sorry state as a result leakage is quite high. Furthermore, since this water scheme was commissioned by the locals themselves, without any government help, funds for maintenance are non-existent. The pipes are old and we just wrap plastic pieces at the spot of leakage. The government authorities are absolutely blasé and nonchalant towards our plight.”

Being a bordering region, the township is often a victim of administrative negligence. Water is the dominant agenda that has marked the local politics for the decade. During the BJP rule in the state, the MLA from the region was elevated to a ministerial post but water crisis in the entire Chaukot valley remained persistent.

“It would be wrong to say that water is not available in the region. What lacks here is the administrative and distribution mechanism. It is ironical that on one hand at the source of the pipeline water overflows the collection tank and on the other the pipes run dry. The reason for this is that owing to acute fund deficit for repair work, pipes of varying breadth were fitted in the pipeline when it was damaged severely. As a result the pressure gets reduced and the pipes are often filled with air” said Vermanand Joshi, the secretary of the local water management committee.

Mahendar Bangari, the outgoing Pradhan says, “Deghat faces some technical administrative problems. On government records there is no gram sabha as Deghat. Half the village comes in Bharsoli gram sabha and the other half in Basnal Gaon. Thus, it becomes difficult to bring any scheme for Deghat as a collective. We are working on a new scheme but it will benefit only a part of Deghat.”

The community pipeline has perhaps outlived itself and a new water scheme for this expanding hill settlement is the need of the hour.

Apart from it some administrative adjustments such as declaring Deghat as a gram sabha of its own will also be instrumental in mitigating the water crisis in this remote and unvisited hill settlement.

-By Mukesh Rawat

  • (This report was published in the Hindustan Times, Dehradun edition on July 1, 2014.)

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