In a shocking incident, unknown miscreants are suspected to have poured oil-like substances into a filter reservoir, meant for water supply to over 330 households at Nongkseh locality in the outskirts of the state capital. This reservoir has the capacity of storing 40,000-50,000 liter using gravity and has been functioning for the past three years. If the foreign substances (oil-like) contained toxic properties, one can imagine the harm it will cause to the entire locality where the water is supplied.
In this case, an alert plumber while performing his daily duties on September 10, 2018 to release the water had noticed some oil-like substance floating at the reservoir after he had released the water to the residents and reported the matter to the office of the Headman, A L Thangkhiew, who immediately intimated the authority of Public Health Engineering department, which is the concerned department for water supply in the state, the locality headman has also filed an FIR with the state police.
According to Thangkhiew, the water will be allowed to overflow for a day till the oil-like substance is cleared. Only after a thorough check as and when the water is suitable for consumption, it will be released to the consumers.
In this particular incident, due to the watchfulness of the plumber, a disastrous health hazard has been prevented. However, what about the numerous similar filter reservoirs which are uncovered and easily accessible to any members of the public, who openly bathe, swim and even wash clothes in these water bodies without any obstruction even as the same is being supplied to the consumers?
Reports about supplying unfit drinking water to the public is not new, there is nothing much done even after the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly informed that out of 31 sources for drinking water, 28 of them have been declared as unsuitable for human consumption in the state as was revealed through last assembly term. Strangely till date neither the government authorities not the general public ever came out to demand purification of drinking water or come out to create awareness on how to protect and preserve our water sources.
It comes as a relief that the Youth Wing of Khun Hynniewtrep National Awakening Movement (KHNAM) finally took cognizance that the drinking water being supplied under Greater Shillong Water Supply Scheme (GSWSS-II) in Mawphlang which has been declared as ‘unsatisfactory for human consumption’ by a city-based research institute.
KHNAM terms such omission of duties as the ‘biggest crime’ because as per the report of the King Edward VII Memorial Pasteur Institute and Medical Research Institute, Shillong regarding the quality of water supplied by GSWSS-II, it was found that ‘Physically the Ph is below the prescribed limit chemically, the water sample is satisfactory and bacteriologically it is unsatisfactory for human consumption’.
According to the microbiologist of the institute, the Ph level of the water supplied from the GSWSS – II stands at 5.7, which indicated that it is ‘acidic’. The institute had conducted a testing for the purpose of drinking on the water sample which was collected and submitted by the KHNAM from GSWS 4th mile on January 6, 2016 and the report was received on January 13, 2016.
This shocking information is nothing new because as mentioned, the state Assembly had already acknowledged the same years back. However it is interesting that only now the Youth Wing of KHNAM has taken up this very important issue.
During any of election, roads, electricity and drinking water is the core agenda of the candidates but no one ever took up the issue of supplying drinkable water in the state.
Also it is an annual affair during the monsoon for all water pipes to get choked by unwanted bodies and the city goes without water supply for days. Yet the 46 year old state had never made any attempt to improve the water supply system, knowing the challenges due to heavy rainfall. Above that, the individual households are being traumatized by the plumbers who actually decide whom the water supply should be released to during normal times. Unless extra payment is made to them on a monthly basis, one can simply forget about having sufficient water supply from their taps at home.
As the urban population is debating on the drinking water supply being harmful for human consumption, rural folks are yet to have proper water connection to individual households; some of the areas in the outskirts of Shillong do not even have water connection for an entire locality! One will wonder as to why most of the government offices including the Main Secretariat building are using Fire Services personnel to fill up their water-tank.
Recently the state government has purchased water carrier trucks only to supply water to government offices and officials’ residences; one can imagine the situation of the masses who need to fetch every single bucket of water from long distances, and some simply break into the water-pipes passing near their residence for survival.
It is time the state government addresses deficiencies in all the filter reservoirs and water-tanks meant for supplying drinking water. These should be well protected where people are not allowed to bathe, swim or wash clothes in these places otherwise we may see other incisents such as the one in Nongkseh locality where the main reservoirs was contaminated by miscreants which has resulted in a serious health hazard.