More than 20% population of Amritsar and 13% of Ludhiana is still deprived of the government water supply despite claims of the civic authorities in both municipalities of making efforts to provide basic amenities to all. Ironically, water supply that is available too is not fit for drinking as it is contaminated.
The fact came to the fore during a presentation on the drinking water needs of the city, which was made on the occasion of the visit of the newly-appointed vice-president of World Bank, Phillipe H Le Houerou and the outgoing vice-president Isabel M Guerrero, to the city on Sunday.
The city's daily water needs are increasing with an increase in the population, with the city consuming 175 litres per capita per day of water, resulting in an overdraft of 145% with 350 tubewells drawing water from underground resources around the clock, which is quite alarming, according to the MC authorities. This, according to them, definitely calls solutions in the form of canal-based water supply.
"While Amritsar has an overdraft of 145% Ludhiana has 185% because of which the ground water level is depleting by almost 50 cm every year and is currently below 20 metre, which is alarming. The World Bank authorities have urged the municipalities of both the cities to opt for recharging through rainwater harvesting," said municipal commissioner DPS Kharbanda.
He added that water that was currently being drawn was sort of hard with traces of metals, arsenic and lead in it and hence, not fit for consumption. "Our aim is to provide clean drinking water to residents because of which the MC has prepared proposals for water supply from Beas worth Rs. 250 crore and Upper Bari Doab Canal worth Rs. 150 crore," he said.
According to Kharbanda, the recharging well put up on the Town Hall premises, would go a long way in solving this problem. "Not only would it help curtail the problem of waterlogging, but it would also help recharge the ground water resources, which is the most pressing need of the hour," he said.
Suresh Kumar, principal secretary, water and sanitation, elucidated the issues in details. He raised issues related to water, rising urbanisation, agriculture and sanitation. "On one hand, the ground water table is sinking rapidly, and on the other hand, with an increase in population, the demand for water too is increasing. What's more, the water that is being supplied is contaminated and many, especially the poor, have no option, but to consume this water," he said.
He also lamented that people from rural areas are migrating to urban areas in large numbers, but the urban areas are not prepared to receive them in an efficient manner. He urged the vice-president of the World Bank to offer help in terms of finance and guidance.
The World Bank vice-president Phillipe H Le Houerou said, "I am excited to be in India for the first time. I had read a lot about royal the Indian hospitality and on my visit I had a chance to experience it. I have noted all the concerns and will certainly extend support in every possible manner." The World Bank will set up projects at Nizampur and Naushera Pannuan.