Natural or Manmade?
By Abu Arsh
Availability of potable water is a major concern for the inhabitants of an island environment. There are some subtle and obvious issues which need to be given attention while addressing the challenges of providing potable water to inhabitants of islands. A&N islands have seen deliberations on this subject since ages and no tangible solution is at sight. Our
Islands are dependent on rainwater harvesting to meet majority of its potable water requirement. Proper sanitation is not possible without adequate water and improper sanitation runs risk of contaminating water sources. Recent water shortages can squarely be attributed to man made factors. There has been consistent mismanagement and pilferage of this natural resource over the years. Growth in the Islands population, tourism and industrial /construction uses have contributed to water shortages.
National Water Policy 2002 recognises water 'a basic human need'. This basic human need at present is made available to us islanders at a premium. Curtailment of water supply to as much as only 2 times a week for 20 minutes a day does not surprise many in summer season. Presently water is supplied on alternate days for an hour with water trickling from taps at a rate where a drum can only become half full. Water supply in Port Blair is maintained by PBMC and in rural areas by APWD. Their lower category staffs have devised means to black market water. A period of acute water shortage surfaced after Tsunami of 2004 due to breakages in the main water pipelines. This gave ample scope for the supervisors and linemen to device ways in putting up a price for their services. This practice has become prevalent predominantly in Municipal areas. Staffs adjust valve settings of water distribution lines to suit their bribing clients and hang around their personal tanks, making sure each of them overflows. This maneuver greatly helps in watering lawns, mopping granite floors and washing grime off cars for our insatiable rich citizens. At the same time a law abiding subscriber of PBMC or APWD fret at erratic water supply in his tap unable to top up his water pot, cook his meal or maintain personal hygiene. Unattended leaking pipes and valves too are a common sight in Port Blair and rural areas.
The islands receive copious rainfall to the tune of about 3000 mm. per year. About 95 percent of annual rainfall is received during May-December (2250 mm in May- September during southwest monsoon and 685 mm in October-December during northeast monsoon). Present availability of water resource in the urban area of Port Blair is 17.79 million litres per day (MLD). This is mainly by storage in Dhanikhari dam. As per the status of water supply (Economic Survey of A&N Islands, 2007-08), the available water supply in
is 49.62 MLD indicating an excess of 10.27 MLD whereas the projected demand for 2020 is 53.91 MLD showing a shortfall of 4.56 MLD. It is interesting to note that the present and projected (by 2020) shortfall in water supply in urban Port Blair alone are 9.38 MLD and 19.67 MLD, respectively. These statistics need pondering and judicious utilisation measures adopted. A&N Islands
For development of water resources in the urban and rural Port Blair, raising of Dhanikhari dam by 5 m, sweet water lake at Sippighat,
water supply project, desalinisation plant at Port Blair, dam on Kamsrat Nallah, have been taken up. Majority of these projects have hit road blocks and are yet to take off or alternatively are progressing at snails pace. Rutland
In a seminar post-Tsunami, a paper by Santha Sheela Nair, Secretary, Drinking Water Supply; New Delhi titled 'Possible Alternatives for Sustainable Sanitation and Safe drinking water supply in islands with specific reference to Andaman & Nicobar Islands'- specified government guidelines while planning water systems on the Andaman Islands. A few key points from the paper were- Sustainability should be evaluated from source, technology, financial and social aspects. The current water supply system needs to be decentralised for augmentation taking into consideration the seismic risks, scattered-increasing population and climate change. Individual and community roof-water harvesting is an ideal decentralised system of providing safe drinking water. Generate awareness and capacity of community towards creating healthy living conditions by promoting eco-sanitation. Not much of it has been given serious thought by our planners.