Often referred to as “mini Kashmir”, Pithoragarh, an important city of the Kumaon Hills, is plagued by perennial drinking water supply and healthcare problems.
Once famous for Basmati rice, the scenic Pithoragarh landscape is fast changing with new constructions coming up in and around the city, leading to groundwater depletion.
Rice fields that once dotted the rural landscape have almost disappeared due to lack of proper irrigation facilities and quality seeds.
With less than a lakh voters, the main poll issue in the February 15 state polls in the assembly seat will focused on the lack of supply of drinking water and healthcare, says local residents.
In the 2012 assembly polls, Mayukh Mahar of the Congress defeated Prakash Pant of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) by margin of 13,177 votes.
Residents say that this time too, it will be a straight fight between the Congress and the BJP.
The Ghat Drinking water supply project was set up 42 years back and no improvements or additions have been made since then. The problem is that the residents get water supply for just 15 minutes a day.
The total water need of the city is at 12 MLD a day while only around 4 MLD is available, compounding the problem.
The other issue is healthcare as the city is an important medical centre for Pithoragarh, Champawat, Bageshwar and also neighbouring Nepal.
The only woman’s hospital in the city has a single doctor who treats 50 to 60 patients every day. There is no anaesthesticist there and has to be called from the district hospital. Residents are also sore about the lack of parking space with the proposed parking lot at Dev Singh field yet to see the light of the day.
Jyoti Prakash Joshi, a shopkeeper says that unemployment, migration and drinking water supply will be the main poll issues in the constituency.
“We vote on both local as well as national issues and prefer to judge a candidate on the basis of his or her personality and not the party,” he says.
Sanjay Bisht, a contractor says the assembly segment will witness a straight fight between the Congress and BJP.
Rohit Sah, a businessman, agrees and says that the election will be fought on the local issues of water and healthcare and people will vote for a person who can solve the issues in the future.
Prakash Pant, the BJP candidate says the projects were approved during his tenure between 2007 and 2012, which has solved the drinking water problem to a big extent.
The Ghat pumping project, Thuligad project and Ghanot project are under construction. New pump and transformers have been installed at Ghat project at cost of Rs 6 crore, solving the problem to some extent, he says.
The 14 villages adjoining Pithoragarh has a requirement of 32 million litres per day (MLD) while only 6 MLD is being supplied for which the previous BJP government approved and sanctioned new projects, he says.
The Anwlaghat drinking water project estimated to cost Rs 71.45 crore for which the Centre has provided Rs 40 crore but the state government has not released its share, he lamented.
Mayukh Mahar, the Congress candidate says that the drinking water supply problem has been reduced by the Congress government and new projects sanctioned, will solve the problem in the entire region.