The damage in the Kajauli waterworks header (the main pipe in the pump house for supplying water) on Saturday was due to negligence on part of the Punjab public health department, an HT investigation has found.
Following the breakdown, Chandigarh and parts of SAS Nagar reeled under a severe water crisis for two days. Residents of Sectors 1-12 and besides southern parts of Chandigarh received low water pressure, especially on upper floors of their buildings.
The header which was already leaking for the past several months could not sustain pressure as the surge vessel (hydraulic system) was not functioning properly.
Moreover, there was no drainage system and no pumps were installed for de-watering when water entered the pump house, resulting in the damage of eight electric motors. It took two days to repair the motors.
The public health department also shares part of the blame for poor water supply in the city, as it is responsible for the maintenance of Kajauli waterworks located near Morinda, 28 km from Chandigarh. Every year, the Chandigarh municipal corporation pays Rs 1.60 crore to the department as maintenance charges besides Rs 27 crore for the electricity used for pumping water to the city.
The public health department announces frequent disruptions in normal water supply to Chandigarh to maintain phases 1, 2 and 4 to ensure smooth supply. These disruptions particularly occur during summers when the demand is high.
Nominated councillor Surinder Bahga claimed that the Punjab public health department is deliberately resorting to disruptions on the pretext of maintenance to extract more money from the Chandigarh MC.
He said the MC officials never bother to check the ground situation at Kajauli waterworks and the Punjab public health department ensures that they remain in the dark.
“The civic body should maintain all three phases of the waterworks and it will save 14% departmental charges paid to the Punjab government. The agreement between the UT administration and the Punjab government for the maintenance of three phases should be reviewed,” Bahga said.
No backup plan
Even as the issue of water storage was debated in the MC house meeting several times, the civic body has not prepared any proposal in this regard yet.
No water mapping has been done for the past two decades and no initiative has been taken to revive six overhead water tanks for round-the-clock water supply. Also, the MC failed to rationalise water distribution in northern and southern sectors of the city.
Surprisingly, the civic body does not have a system wherein it can stop water supply to one sector and continue the same to another for few hours when there is a crisis-like situation.
Former mayor Subhash Chawla said, “We will again raise the issue in the MC house meeting on July 29. It is a serious matter which needs to be dealt with on priority basis.”
Water crisis on Monday too
Even as the MC claimed to have repaired all power motors at the Kajauli waterworks, the city residents, particularly those residing on upper floors, continued to face water shortage on Monday also. The problem was acute in southern sectors.
MC superintending engineer NP Sharma admitted that there was problem in some sectors in the morning but they made up for it with water tankers. “Water supply in the evening was smooth,” he said.
On Monday, Sectors 15, 22, 27, 28, 31, 32, 34, 35, 44, 45, 46 and 48 to 51 were the worst hit.
Arvind Uberoi, resident of Sector 15, said, “This shows a clear lack of planning on the part of the MC. The officials concerned are not serious about addressing civic problems. They took two days to rectify a minor snag like this.”
HPS Dhillon, executive engineer, public health wing, SAS Nagar, said, “It was a minor leakage as the equipment for phases 1 and 2 was installed in 1983 and has outlived its life. Also, the header could not sustain the pressure due to frequent outages and got damaged.”
MC has no plan for storage
Even as the issue of water storage was debated in the house meeting several times, the civic body has not prepared any proposal in this regard yet. No water mapping has been done for the past two decades and no initiative has been taken to revive six overhead water tanks for round-the-clock water supply. Also, it failed to rationalise water distribution in northern and southern sectors. The MC does not have a system wherein it can stop water supply to one sector and continue the same to another in a crisis.